23 September, 2018

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Palmyra Fallen: Rajani To War’s End

By Rajan Hoole  

Rajan Hoole

Rajan Hoole

25th  Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama

We are living through an era where the powers that be have become very cynical about life. In their very nature it suits them to dismiss any attempt to remember one life lost or to seek justice for one killed as wasting time over a single speck among tens of thousands who suffered a similar fate. They know that to go deep into any one death, to expose culpability and explain the irreparable harm it does to all of us, is to place the edifice of power on trial. That is why the memory of Rajani is so important; she was just such a person who insisted that the memory of every person who was a victim of organised, institutional violence was sacred, and that the whole truth should be placed on record for the people to judge. The public values she espoused, worked, and died for, are an important part of our heritage, particularly of left activism, that are an inspiration to those who come after her.

Left activism was always important in mobilising the marginalised and giving them a voice – in particular the oppressed castes throughout the country and the Hill Country Tamils. Today, when the need for such activism is even more keenly felt, people have no stomach for it. Former left activists in the South see a hopefully reformed UNP as the only hope against a Rajapakse-led SLFP. Among Tamil leftists there is the despondency that makes one feel that one cannot make any impact in politics without an alliance with the nationalist TNA to alleviate the tragic plight of the Tamils, even as it is eminently answerable for this plight.

Rajani

Rajani

At the time of Independence, the Left had in its ranks some of the greatest intellects this country had nurtured, and their parliamentary speeches at that time stand testimony to it. The internationalism of Dr. N.M Perera, Dr. Colin R. De Silva, and Harry Abeygoonewardena came through strongly in the citizenship debates, as opposed to the ethnic parochialism of the rulers, and reflected accurately the future fate of the country. Yet when debating the Motion of Independence from 1st to 3rd December 1947 (the prelude to the Ceylon Independence Act in Britain), none of them seemed wise to what it was that the Government was really trying to hide. They seemed unduly distracted by the Defence Agreement with Britain and failed to see the true extent of the Government’s deceit.[1] That came in the form of the classic double-cross eight months later – the Citizenship Bill.[2]The Left’s failure to move beyond words of censure to check this enormity against the working classes spelt the beginning of its slow decay.

From its early dawn in the 1930s, indignation against social oppression and the need for an organised effort to relieve it motivated  sensitive youth to take to left activism. Rajani, as a medical doctor, would readily have empathised with Dr. S.A. Wickremasinghe, who speaking in 1935 for the abolition of “social and economic inequality and oppression arising from differences of class, caste, race, creed and sex” that were consequences of political subjection, described the savage conditions in a village, Talahena, not far from Colombo. He had seen a mother who had given birth to a child lying on a dirty mat. The body was laid on a “kolapotha” with no clothes on. The mother was suffering from malaria. There was no help in the house save a boy at the door, presumably to drive the devil out. He contrasted this with the wealth and waste indulged in by the upper classes and the political elite.[3]

The early idealism of the Left made a strong impression on students into the 1970s, and the leaders were giants in their time. At that time they truly represented the racial equality to which the so-called liberal democracy in this country only paid lip service. Regi Siriwardene[4] reflects as a young insider in the 1940s how the killing of the worker Govindan in the Mooloya Estate strike of 1940 became a political issue that exemplified the preponderance class politics then over ethnic politics: “No demagogue or careerist in the South today would try to make political capital out of the killing of a Tamil estate worker. Nor would any Southern-based political party mount a national agitation as the LSSP did, for the prosecution for murder of a Sinhalese sergeant who had shot the Tamil worker. For that matter the national conscience would hardly be agitated today by the question of whether the killing of one man was justified or not.” Today’s indifference to a plethora of crimes by the State, frequently with an ethnic colouring, that are denied or covered up, shows where we stand. Even the token attempts in the 1990s to address crimes during the suppression of the 1987 – 1990 JVP insurgency, are now missing (see Arrogance of Power). The result is the hopeless degeneration of national life into crime, violence, communalism and corruption.

The fall of the Left in 1964 into compromise with communalism and narrow nationalism was truly a great fall, like that of the proverbial Knights of the Round Table:

For now I see the true old times are dead,

When every morning brought a noble chance,

And every chance brought out a noble knight.” [5]

The Left failed to discern at the time of independence that the departing British and their local surrogates had connived to undermine them by the simple expedient of decitizenising a large segment of the working class. Siriwardene mentions in particular the Left being caught on the wrong foot over the language issue, its failure to come to terms with the JVP uprising in 1971 which also claimed left inspiration, its patronising inability to comprehend the gravity of Tamil nationalism, the statism inherent in its 1972 constitution that further exacerbated the minorities question, and its failure to see in federalism a solution to the latter.

The fall of the Left meant that there was no one, no grouping, that the country or the the youth, could look up to in the hope that wrongs would be righted. To Regi Siriwardene (ibid), the fall did not ‘accentuate any feelings of nostalgia’: “I am too conscious of the roads not taken, the possibilities left unfulfilled, for that. Unlike those who look back to those years as a political Eden before the fall of 1964, I see the decline as inherent in the limitations and partialities of the vision of the earlier period…the vanguard party had no viability once the LSSP moved into the period of open mass politics…The vanguard model was born under conditions of Russian autocracy; the assumption it implied, that one party had the monopoly of programmatic wisdom, was incompatible with a competitive political system. In the contemporary world, in societies possessing such a system, the motor of social change has not been a single party but a combination of many forces, including not only political parties but also social action groups of various kinds, and Sri Lanka hasn’t proved an exception.”

Rajani came into left politics conscious of the developments sketched above. She did not look to building a party, but rather a plural social movement in her locality, which would gain strength through small victories, and by forming ties of solidarity across Lanka, South Asia and the wider world.

For Rajani life could find meaning only in partaking of the spirit and tribulations of her own people for whose destiny she felt responsible. Unlike some for which such tribulations could narrow their humanity, it broadened Ranjani’s scope. She was disciplined to think as an internationalist, and one could hardly identify with the suffering in the wider world, if one chose to distance oneself from the sufferings of the people one was born among, who formed the most meaningful sphere of one’s action. Thus even amidst the trauma of the Indian Army’s takeover, she felt deep sympathy for the peasant soldiers from Punjab, Bihar, and Bengal who were dying in Jaffna without any clue about why they were sent and what they were meant to accomplish.

Her actions were about integrity in the commitments she had undertaken rather than popularity or fame. She sought to work among the outcasts of society, whose sufferings were good for nationalist propaganda, but not to identify with and find common cause. She worked with women who had been abused and traumatised. Once politically motivated and able to stand up for themselves, they could become a bastion of strength within society to change people’s outlook and attitudes. As part of their education they were encouraged to learn from experiences and struggles in other societies. She felt a deep sense of solidarity for struggles everywhere, particularly the plight of hill country Tamils and the Sinhalese rural folk caught up in terror and counter-terror during her last years. It stands testimony to her character and sense of mission that she returned from England with her two little daughters into the web of the very organisation whose inhumanity she had come to detest. Former Tanzanian foreign minister and subsequent political prisoner and exile, Mr. Mohamed Abdul Rahuman Babu, testified to Rajani’s internationalism and her faith in the triumph of justice at the commemoration for her at the University of Jaffna, 22nd November 1989:

I first met her at a meeting organised by the African students in London in support of the Eritrean people to self determination. You’ll be surprised that Rajani, coming from Jaffna, getting herself involved in an issue that does not concern Tamils,…but concerns a remote people, three million people, in a corner of Africa, which Africa itself has ignored. You hear of liberation struggles, of Angola, of Mozambique, of South Africa. It’s fashionable to talk about these struggles, but you don’t hear about the struggle of the Eritrean people, because it has been embargoed, because it is a black colonial power against a black people. So to find somebody like Rajani conscious of this says a lot about the kind of person she was.

Rajani lived and died at a great moment in history when we are seeing significant changes taking place in the Third World. The Third World went through the first phase of struggling for independence, and we were all involved in the national liberation struggles in one way or another. We got our independence only to discover that that independence has been hijacked. It had not served the people, but served a handful of people. It has left the poor people of Africa and Asia in a most poverty stricken state of affairs ever experienced in history

It is no longer a struggle against a distant oppressor…But it is a struggle within ourselves, and it needs a lot of determination and sacrifice because in this struggle it is easy to be isolated, it is easy to be called the enemy of the people, an enemy of the state. So the cost is very high and Rajani sacrificed her life for that, to side with the people.”

A strong element in Rajani’s passion for justice was her insistence on human relationships untrammeled by artificial barriers thrown up by institutions and discriminatory policies and customs. She detested any idea of greatness that required making others small through human barriers, institutional power, enforced poverty, and deprivation. Her main criticism of the LTTE was related to this. An unjust order, however distressing, was irrational, a transient will-o’-the-wisp, that leaves in a discerning observer a great sense of foreboding of an ephemeral order that is extremely destructive while it lasts. Time and again, our attention was drawn to what the South African struggle, one that Rajani closely identified with, shared with our own.

Most militant groups had a core that could appreciate persons with ability, people who could steer organisations in a healthy direction, joining other groups. It brought closer cooperation for the common public good. The LTTE on the other hand looked only at its narrow interests and targeted talented persons in other groups for elimination. A consequence was that any criticism of it became anathema. The cost of Prabhakaran’s greatness was a society paralysed by terror. It was such a leadership that led the people into the killing fields of Mullivaykkal in 2009, with hardly a voice from the senior Tamil political leadership raised in protest, except that of Mr. Anandasangari.

Rajani was keenly conscious of the inevitable attraction of movements such as the LTTE to the young who felt powerless against an arrogant and brutal state. She believed that every life was precious and opposed individual killings for political ends. While she had no doubt that Prabhakaran was the immediate obstacle to the Tamils being allowed breathing space, any anger she felt against him was muted by what she felt for the callous and thoughtless opportunism of her own class – the good middle class TULF supporters.

With the understanding and sympathy Rajani felt for youth who took to violence against the State, she tried to engage with them frankly. Her constant message to them was, “I agree with you that the actions of the State are without excuse and we care no less about liberation than you do. Liberation must begin with questioning ourselves. But the way you are getting about it, wounding our society grievously by your actions, would weaken and humiliate us and render us servile before the State and larger powers.”

Through the 1980s, seeing what she conceived as a people’s struggle being utterly debauched, with nothing left except the ambitions of a few who did not baulk at mass murder, Rajani was moved to write these damning words:

The Tigers’ history, their theoretical vacuum, lack of political creativity, intolerance and fanatical dedication will be the ultimate cause of their own break up. The legendary Tigers will go to their demise with their legends smeared with the blood and tears of victims of their own misdoings. A new Tiger will not emerge from their ashes. Only by breaking with this whole history and its dominant ideology, can a new liberating outlook be born.” (The Broken Palmyra Vol. II, 6.3.4)

Rajani’s activism was motivated by the understanding that ordinary people who want to get on with life without being weighed down by antagonisms, have a natural propensity for reconciliation. A senior lady from a leading traditional Left family observed that when Tamils from the Vanni were driven to IDP camps after the last round of war, many ordinary Sinhalese went with food and other necessities for them. The Army stopped them and took  their donations saying they would deal with the matter. The lady observed, “That is the point where reconciliation should have begun, with people to people contact. The opportunity was lost.”

We are writing this book, not only as a tribute to Rajani, but also to remind the people and leaders of our country of the need at this time to uphold the ideals of justice and reconciliation that Rajani stood for.

*25th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama – 21st September 2014 


[1]Documents on Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy 1947 – 1965, esp. speeches by Pieter Kenuman and Dr. N.M. Perera, p. 67 ff, Amal Jayawardane Ed., Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo. While the Defence Agreement with Britain of 11th November 1947 may have emboldened Senanayake to aggressive posturing against India during the passage of the Citizenship Acts, the military assistance from Britain was conditional  ‘as it may be in their mutual interest to provide’.

[2] As late as 1947, D.S. Senanayake told the House during the debate on the White Paper,  “We have no such [snobbish ideas that Indians are not wanted here]…We love the Indians…There is hardly any difference with regard to the view of my learned friend Diwan Bahadur I.X. Perera himself…My friend says, ‘We want full citizenship’. I tell you, ‘If you live here, we will embrace you’.”

[3] Inaugural meeting of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, 21 Dec.1935, Ceylon Daily News, 23 Dec. 1935

[4] Working Underground, The LSSP in Wartime: A Memoir of Happenings and Personalities, ICES, 1999

[5] Alfred Tennyson, Morte d’Arthur

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Latest comments

  • 9
    4

    A great lady gunned down by the ruthless LTTE,the Tigers were never ever tolerant of dissent or anyone who dares question them,damm good they are gone forever!

    • 1
      1

      From what I have read about Rajini, and what I have seen in the documentary – “no more tears sister” – this is a great woman leader who should be known to all women in Sri Lanka as a role model. She started her struggle seeing the unjust ways of the Southern Governments. She used peaceful means of expression, and condemned violence. The insensitivity of the Southern Governments to listen to such peaceful voices led to the emergence of violent movements like LTTE that later saw intellectual approaches to be meaningless. However, Rajini, knowing the risk very well, stood on her moral high grounds without fear. That of course was a lion roar not tolerated by organizations like LTTE.

      Her birth and a human rights defender, her life, and her death builds a tall monument for us to value peaceful ways of expression, and to listen. After the peaceful election of the N&E provincial council, now we hear such voices again. Lets not think that pumping soldiers in those areas will solve the underpinning grievances. Listening and being honest to act would.

  • 5
    5

    .
    In a country where even the Government eliminates the talents who oppose them, you cannot expect rebels to behave better.

    :-)

    • 3
      10

      This is Typical Tamils.

      No shame in going to lowest levels.

      • 5
        2

        Jim softy

        “No shame in going to lowest levels.”

        This is because they are closely related to their Sinhala brethren.

  • 7
    4

    Her assassin VP is also dead now.

    Rajani fought IPKF sexual violence against Tamil women. She had many enemies.

  • 4
    5

    I am not offending dead woman who was a revel as a young educated woman.

    If you commomorate this way, the south have so many dead people who needed to be considered in the same category as they were killed by either by the JVP or LTTE.

    • 6
      1

      Jim softy

      “If you commomorate this way, the south have so many dead people who needed to be considered in the same category as they were killed by either by the JVP or LTTE.”

      You are suffering from selective amnesia.

      The state too killed many innocent good people in the south. Hence we need a comprehensive independent investigation into war crimes and crime against humanity covering the period from 5th April to date.

      • 1
        2

        @NV, JSofty cannot have amnesia as he does not have a brain. His head is filled with fart from the previous day’s meal.

        • 2
          1

          Tamil from the north

          “His head is filled with fart from the previous day’s meal.”

          You mean he is sitting on his brain.

    • 2
      2

      @Jim softy, you racist pig, it is time you shut up and buggered off to your rural hambantota.

  • 7
    1

    This is a link to the powerful documentary “No More Tears, Sister” which was made in Canada with the assistance of Rajani’s family.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C803NOvmTqk&list=PL1C6A1168D46400DE

    The title is taken from a letter that Rajani wrote to her sister Nirmala that she had no more tears left to cry after the horrors she had witnessed.

    Rajani Thirinagama’s murder by the LTTE should have resulted in Tamil people around the world abandoning support of the Tigers. It didn’t, partly because of efforts to obfuscate the matter by people saying no one knew who killed her. I remember a meeting in Australia, shortly after her murder, when we were told that she had been killed by the government and not by the LTTE.

    • 1
      2

      Mr Romesh;

      Did the LTTE admit that they killed This heroine, Dr Rajani for not cooperating for their Recruitments and other unsocial activities????????.
      You can tell us actually what Happened????,

      May be D B S J also knows some things happened that time.

      Some of the Government Paid Commenters here wants to white wash the Previous and present JARA Passa Clan governments for pawning their Souls.
      Bot Nobody can burry the TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

      “We Pray and Do merits to All who died in this unwanted War, tobe away from allthe sufferings and to be ATTAIN NIBBAANA.
      May this heroine, Dr Rajani to Attain NIBBANA.”

      • 4
        1

        Julampitiye Amaraya,

        If you watch the documentary with the link I have provided, you can see Rajani’s husband explaining some of the reasons why he thinks it was the LTTE that killed her. It also provides the account of her sister Nirmala who explains how and why Rajani was induced to get involved with (but never join) the Tigers. It also provides an insight into why Nirmala herself joined the Tigers and how her arrest and imprisonment by the government led to Rajani travelling to England to campaign for her sister’s release. This involved a human rights organization, which I think was Amnesty International. When in London, Rajani was instrumental in changing perceptions towards the Tigers who she initially saw as noble freedom fighters and revolutionaries rather than terrorists.

        The blinkers were lifted off her eyes first when Nirmala wrote to Rajani after spending some months a captive of the LTTE in India. The LTTE had busted her out of jail, but surprised her with immediately giving her a cyanide capsule which she was instructed to take if she got caught again. In India Nirmala found that the LTTE camp was ruled by fear and was not true to the Marxist and feminist ideals she had expected. She said that people were afraid to leave the organization lest they be shot.

        When she returned to Sri Lanka, Nirmala wrote to Rajani in England telling her about her new understanding of the LTTE’s real nature. Rajani doubted her sister, but raised the matter with the LTTE leadership in London. This may have been Anton and Adele Balasingham, I’m not sure. Rajani’s husband says that the LTTE was angry at her impertinence, which is consistent with what I know about the LTTE.

        On her return to Sri Lanka Rajani was caught up in the war in Jaffna between the LTTE and Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). She and a group of colleagues (University Teachers for Human Rights) documented human rights abuses and detailed them for publication. This publication was “The Broken Palmyrah” which was published after her murder with a foreword written by my father, Brian Senewiratne.
        http://www.uthr.org/BP/A%20FOREWORD.htm

        This foreword doesn’t say who killed Rajani, and at the time I remember that my father accused the Sri Lankan government of killing her in a public meeting in the local church. I didn’t know better and assumed she had been killed by the SL army until I watched the documentary above a couple of years ago and learned otherwise. I note that in his foreword (that I read for the first time recently) my father is not clear as to who killed Rajani. I’m not sure what he thinks now.

        • 1
          0

          I read. up a lot and watched the documentary.

          There is a lot of effort underway to disassociate Rajani from the LTTE.
          This is an insult to the dead person and also to historical truths getting on to the correct track.

          While it is alleged that this Dr. Rajani when in London even manned LTTE front office jobs ” Rajani was induced to get involved with (but never join)” is a careless insertion for some ongoing dirty politicization?

          Note also how Satan Jayatilleke claimed at the time that EPRLF killed Rajani.
          http://new.sangam.org/2010/09/Who_Killed_Rajani.php?uid=4071

          It seems very clear that the LTTE killed the bright spark who rebelled against the flow of flawed Jaffna of that time. It also seems this murder is deeply mired by opportunistic politics being played two decades later of a dead issue.

          When you play with fire you risk getting burned too.

  • 3
    3

    There was a long list of unnecessary killings which finally derailed the cause of the LTTE. The chief among them was the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. All of them were absolutely unnecessary as none of them had any power at the time of the killings to stand in the way of what the LTTE wanted to achieve. They demonstrate the utter and absolute futility of violence. Such violence detracted from whatever merit Prabhakaran’s movement, motivated by a just cause, may have had. The Tamil community must recognize this, even if they do not want to detract from the contribution that the LTTE may have made to their cause. Given the continuing Sinhala intransigence, the LTTE was a natural phase. If the Sinhala opinion does not heed this and continue with their oppression, the phase is guaranteed to come back with renewed vigor. But, before it does, the Sinhala people will reap the violence they sowed in that they will have to face the brutality of Rajapakse and his army before he can be removed. The country is in for a tough time. Violence is not over in the thrice blessed land.

    • 3
      1

      Ponkoh Sivakumaran

      “There was a long list of unnecessary killings which finally derailed the cause of the LTTE.”

      Is there something called necessary killing. If you believe so please give us some examples.

      • 1
        1

        For a man with the wisdom of ancient people, you ask easy questions. Of course, there are necessary killings. The penal code provides justifications of self-defense etc from killings which means they are necessary killings. The Bagavath Gita talks of killings that eliminate evil. There is a just war doctrine. Prabhakaran may have been fighting a just war if not for his unnecessary killings of the decrepit.

  • 3
    2

    Dr Thiranagama was very unlikely killed by Ltte.
    1. During the IPKF time Ltte was not active in vicinity she was Killed, their movements were very restricted in Jaffan. LTTE was active in Vadarachi at that time but cannot cross to Jaffa for for their activities.

    Secondly, oil tanker towed by train from KKS graffitied saying “yesterday day was Anantharaj tomorrow Rajani?”. This was week before she was assassinated.

    Thirdly the person mentioned in media who was responsible was hiding in Vadarachi at the time and been to Jaffna.

    The oil tanker towed by goods train always parked under IPKF guard.

    Ltte even could not eliminate their combat enemies EPRLF in Jaffna because they can’t move around.

    The assassination properly done by EPRLF under ordered from IPKF her criticism of Indian leadership and IPKF Atrocities and rape in Tamil area.

    • 4
      0

      @Ruban, are you speculating it could have been, should have been or would have been? The dreaded LTTE murdered Rajani in cold blood, it is a fact. Are you trying to whitewash what the bastards from the LTTE did? “LTTE could not wipe out the EPRLF”, are you kidding me? where were you when almost the entire fighting unit of the EPRLF was wiped out, maybe you were hiding under a bed watching the fun?

  • 5
    0

    Romesh, thank you for providing the link. I sat through and watched all 7 parts of this documentary. I would also strongly encourage everyone who loves Sri Lanka and ALL it’s people to listen to these clips. They summarise the journey of three idealists – Nirmala, Rajini and Dayapala. They draw attention to how the genuine concerns over social injustice can be exploited by circumstances and vested interests.

    I am 52 years old and having lived through two sets of violent uprisings – one in the South and the other in the North, both of which consumed a very large number of innocent lives, here I am in the UK, thinking and reflecting on what these uprisings have taught all of us…….including some of my fellow commentators in these columns who spit venom at each other.

    Bear with me if I share my own reflections on the life of my friend Kumara Kulatunga, who was a boy from Galle and the son of a humble school teacher. He started his political journey in Colombo by going for “Nalin sir’s” lectures at the main Thurstan Road campus where he was told about ‘Jathika Chintanaya’ and how the native land of the “sons of the soil” was stolen by the horrible invaders. Sir Ivor Jennings and Ponnambalam Ramanadan in particular received a special roasting from this “Nalin sir” for cheating and depriving the sons of the soil from their rightful “Urumaya”. However, having indoctrinated this young boy, this “Nalin sir” never showed the way forward and therefore after a period in the wilderness, Kumara gravitated into the arms of the JVP and the “Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya”………..at best he would have attended some of their meetings and perhaps pasted posters in and around Punchi Boralla. “Gasaw Gasaw……….Kareli Gasaw” he may have shouted behind the dead lawer – whose funeral procession was coordinated by the Medical students union Kulatunga belonged to.

    One day he came running to me in a state of panic……..”can I stay in your hostel…….I am scared of dying” he said. After some brief discussion with my landlord at the time, we agreed that he can stay in the spare room in a grand house directly behind the Dehiwala zoo. A few happy weeks we spent together, but ‘Kulaya’ as we called him never left the house, the expression on his face – one of sheer anxiety and panic, one that you see only in the face of a hunted animal, never changed. A few weeks later, in the stillness of the night, THEY came for him – in an unmarked Pajero of course. That was the last I saw of my friend Kulaya who wanted to change the world. “The children of the barricade who didn’t last the night”………indeed.

    The last I heard of my friend was that his father – a retired teacher from Galle, was searching for his beloved son’s body sobbing……”umba dosthara wenda neda giye mage puthe”. Pardon me if I amend the list of names to include my long lost friend who set out to make the world a better and fairer place – but was exploited, twisted and ultimately consumed by the “Nalin sirs” of this world – on all sides of the ethnic divide.
    Dr Mahesan Nirmalan
    Manchester Medical School.

    • 2
      0

      Thanks, Mahesan. I too found the No More Tears, Sister documentary eye-opening, especially in view of what I have previously been told about who killed her.

      Terrible things have been done of all sides since a gun culture was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 1970s. I remember reading Vietnam war comics in Trinity College in the 1970s, where the Viet-Cong were referred to as “gooks” and the youthful reader was encouraged to side with the “liberating” American soldiers rather than the slanty-eyed “gooks”. There were also Cold War comic books showing the heroes fighting against the sinister Russians and others showing the success against the Nazis in the Second World War.

      The guns used by the JVP and the numerous Tamil gangs that fought a turf war with the LTTE were all imported into the country. As these gangs became better armed, the government responded with more and more force. This is what governments do around the world when citizens take up arms against it. Arming oneself plays into the hands of American, British, Russian (and now Chinese) arms dealers. It justifies the state buying weapons to defend the state and to defend the rest of the population from the self-styled “revolutionaries”.

      It is known that the LTTE was armed with AK47s. These are the assault rifles that are crossed on the LTTE flag. AK47s were designed in Russia in 1947, and exported to “Marxist revolutionaries” all over the world. They were sold and re-sold and ended up in the hands of youth in Sri Lanka. The cost to the young people of trying to fight the state with inferior weapons since the 1970s has been immense. Increased militarism serves the purposes of some, especially arms dealers. There is a huge difference between a peaceful revolution and an armed revolution. The JVP and the LTTE both took up arms against the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka and both were crushed. Now the problem is to get rid of the vast number of guns in the country that have been imported over the past 40 years.

      The story you recount about your frightened friend was moving.

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