By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
The violence in Sri Lanka raged for 33 years, starting from the declaration of war on May 14, 1976 at Vadukoddai by the Tamil leadership and ending in Nandikadal on May 18, 2009 when Velupillai Prabhakaran’s body was found floating in the murky waters of the Lagoon. This war has been described in different ways, depending on the political orientation of the describer. It was, however, commonly described as an ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. But the unravelling events questioned this description.
The decision to go for a military solution, stated unequivocally in the Vadukoddai Resolution, was ratified by the Tamil leadership led by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the man who claimed that his ambition was to be a father to the Tamils because he never had a father to look after him in Jaffna. His father left him in Tellipallai when he was only four and went back to Malaysia and never saw him again until he was dying. It was this Father (Thanthai Chelva) who led his children all the way to Nandikadal.
Led by Chelvanayakam, the Tamil leadership agreed at Vadukoddai that the military solution was better than the non-violent parliamentary process and decided to wage a war against the Sinhalese who were identified as the enemy of the Tamils.The distorted history, the generalised accusations and the main political thrust of the Vadukoddai Resolution were designed to demonise the Sinhala community and generate hate politics of the extreme kind against the Sinhalese. Accordingly, the hate politics inscribed in the Vadukoddai Resolution and picked up by Prabhakaran should have led Tamil violence to target only the Sinhala community as there was no other enemy identified in the Vadukoddai Resolution. But Velupillai Prabhakaran, the anointed proxy of the Vellahla leadership which urged the Tamil youth to take up arms, targeted the Muslims and the Tamils indiscriminately. Why? What had the Muslims done to the Tamils to massacre them? And, above all, what had the Tamils done to Prabhakaran for him to target the Tamils? Prabhakaran first turned his guns on the Tamils and killed more Tamils than all the others put together. No other leader had pursued hate politics to insatiable extremes as Prabhakaran. His hate politics that led to the killing of anyone whom he perceived to be his enemy was totally irrational and counter-productive.
It was, above all, a deviation from the anti-Sinhala hate politics defined in the Vadukoddai Resolution. It gave the licence to kill only Sinhalese but not the Muslims and fellow-Tamils. If Tamil militancy was in the hands of a more rational leader the history of the Tamils – and that of the nation – would have taken a different path, possibly a path that could have saved lives and opened up space for peace and reconciliation much earlier than 2009. But the violent Tamil culture was neither tolerant nor broad enough to produce a more enlightened leader. The innate perversions and fury of Tamil culture had the potential to gestate only within a culture of violence and give birth to its one and only hero, Prabhakaran – a mass murderer compared, quite rightly, to Pol Pot by the New York Times. The Tamils had no way out from the tyrannical grip of the one-man regime as long as Prabhakaran was alive.
Ironically, the Tamil were eventually liberated from Tamil tyranny by the sacrifices of the Sinhala soldiers of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) who were labelled as the enemies of the Tamils. The Tamils walk the earth with dignity and self-respect today only because 27,000 Sinhala soldiers sacrificed their lives to get rid of their fascist tyrant who, among other evils, terrorised Tamil children by dragging them into a futile war. While the Tamils looked the other way, concocting excuses for this barbarity, it was the Sinhala soldiers who stepped in to save the Tamil children from the clutches of Prabhakaran, the Tamil Boko Haram.
Prabhakaran’s overall strategy was based on one delusional response to all challenges faced by him : kill his perceived enemies. It was a Pavlovian response that was self-destructive. Example : killing of Rajiv Gandhi. But he imagined that he was playing the role of the great fixer like his Hollywood idol, Clint Eastwood. Killing is the standard response of terrorist leaders. They hope to grab power by climbing over the dead bodies of their own people. Tragically, his stature grew in the eyes of the Tamils each time he piled one more corpse on the rising mounds of Tamil bodies rotting in his killing fields.
Besides, the Tamils who followed him encouraged him by celebrating each death he caused in the name of the Tamils. There was no Tamil courageous enough to stop his macabre madness. He knew no limits. If, for instance, A is declared the enemy by B why should B take a gun and go on the rampage killing everybody from A – Z? His mindless killings prompted Prof. James Jupp of Australian National University to label Prabhakaran as a “pathological killer”. Prabhakaran’s hate politics of killing anyone who crossed his path – from Rajiv Gandhi to pregnant Muslim women — borders on sadistic fascism. In the bloody sea of Vadukoddai violence he popped up as a maniacal wave, carrying with him the intense fury, of the intolerant, violent and arrogant Vellahla culture. Jaffna was never attuned to a democratic or tolerant culture. From the time of Sankilli it was rooted in Tamil fascist violence of various shades. The Tamil political class wear the democratic mask now, invoking human rights, essentially to hide the ruthless fascist face of Tamil violence that oppressed and persecuted their own people as a species of subhuman outcasts throughout their brief history. .
On the contrary, the target of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) was clear : the Tamil Tiger terrorists. Though there were excesses and also collateral damage in which non-combatant Tamil civilians were caught in the cross-fire, the GOSL forces did not target the Tamil civilians like the spiteful way the Tamil Tigers decimated the Tamils and the Muslims. Nor did GOSL persecute the Tamil dissidents who were openly in cahoots with the Tigers. While Prabhakaran went on the rampage massacring the Tamil leadership the GOSL gave refuge to those who survived his wrath with total freedom to oppose the state. The TNA MPs, for instance, who were the proxies for the Tigers, were not only given protection but given every opportunity to go along with LTTE politics. But the unfettered LTTErs, using all the space available in a democracy, fired on everything that was suspected of moving against Prabhakaran.
M.K. Sivajilingam, Northern Provincial Council member, TNA, formerly of TELO, sums up the brutal violence of the LTTE, in the following quote picked from Q & A session with Ceylon Today (26.6. 2016.) :
Sivajilingam : “Other than Kayts experience, there were two more incidents. Once the TNA parliamentary group led by R. Sambanthan went to Kandy to meet the Chief Prelates of Malwatta and Asgiriya. A group protested against us there. They attacked our vehicles with rocks. The driver drove the vehicle fast and stopped it before the house of the then Deputy Minister of Justice Shelton Ranaraja. He treated us very cordially. We left Kandy in the evening after the protest was over…..
Q: What is the other incident?
“A: One day in 1986, LTTE wanted to kill me in Velvetithurai. LTTE was killing TELO sympathisers. Five of the houses of my relatives were raided in the night in search of me. I was in Mannar and saved myself. When Prabhakaran was helpless, I helped him. TELO provided him with a revolver. It was handed to Prabhakaran through Ramanathanthurai and on that day, LTTE killed him too.
Q: Why did LTTE respond to people like you in that way?
A: That was LTTE’s nature. They killed so many people who helped them. I don’t approve of it.”
Sivajilingam also stated : “I have helped him (Prabhakaran) in many ways. If I did not help him he could have been killed.”
This excerpt illustrates the experience of the Tamils in two significant ways. First, when the Tamils were threatened by the Sinhala mobs it was the Sinhala elite (Shelton Ranaraja, Deputy Minister of Justice) that gave them protection. Second, when the Tamils were threatened by the Tamils they received no help from the Tamils. On the contrary, the Tamils used the revolvers given to them by the Tamils and pulled the trigger to eliminate them.
Sivajailingam was not alone in gifting revolvers to Prabhakaran. This episode confirms that the guns and ammunition that killed the Tamils were supplied to Prabhakaran by the Tamil leadership, both at home and abroad. The Tamil diaspora in particular financed the Vadukoddai War that killed more Tamils than members of the other communities. Sivajilingam’s confession amounts to an admission of guilt. As suppliers and financiers of the weapons of destruction to the LTTE, the Tamil leadership, both at home and abroad, were responsible for prolonging a futile war that killed more Tamils than either Sinhalese or Muslims. Having stoked the fires of devastating war as long as they could they are now shedding crocodile tears in the corridors of UNHRC accusing the GOSL of violating human rights. Their hypocrisy is as despicable as the brutal violence they perpetrated through their “Suriya Devan”.
Besides, when Sivajilingam said that killing of Tamils “was LTTE’s nature” he admitted, perhaps unwittingly, the incurable nature of the violence inherent in the Tamil culture – a culture that came down from Sankilli to Prabhakaran, the crowned heir to the brutal Tamil culture of Tamils killing Tamils. The elevation of a ruthless killer of Tamils to the highest iconic level in their history reflects the inbred culture of violence which has no qualms about hero-worshipping subhuman violence. The Sinhalese too produced his counterpart in the person of Rohana Wijeweera, another fascist killer. But the Sinhalese have reduced him to an obscure footnote in an aberrant history that is fading into oblivion. The Germans have buried Hitler’s memory with his ashes. Cambodians are sick to their back teeth with Pol Pot. The Tamils, on the contrary, light candles to Prabhakaran today in their living rooms as the revered hero of Tamil history. Tamils, obviously, have no one else to replace this inhuman killer. Arumuka Navalar and Sir. Ponnambalam Ramanathan are heroes to the reactionary Vellahlas, not to the oppressed Tamils. Jaffna, tragically, is a land without humane heroes. There was no space for a Gandhi or an Ambedkhar. They would have been a serious threat to the Vellahla establishment.
This absence of respectable heroes questions the imagined greatness of the Tamils who never tire of boasting about a glorious culture that cannot be found in history books even if you peruse it with a magnifying glass. In any case, what humane values can the Tamils claim to possess when they worship their most noted killer as their “Suriya Devan”? There is a touch of pathos when Sivajilingam says: ““I have helped him (Prabhakaran) in many ways. If I did not help him he could have been killed.”…….They (the Tamil Tigers) killed so many people who helped them. I don’t approve of it.“ But it was Sivajilingam who gave the revolver for the killings. Isn’t a bit too late for remorse now?
Predictably, Tamil violence ran berserk under Prabhakaran. He had the right killer instinct to be the explosive force of the dormant Tamil culture of violence. And when the Vadukoddai Resolution activated Tamil violence it exploded with uncontrollable fury. There was no one to guide the naive gun-toting youth drunk with the political power that was legitimised in the Vadukoddai Resolution. The Vellahla leadership which controlled peninsular politics from feudal times discovered, rather late in the day, that power had slipped out of their hands once they declared war in the Vadukoddai Resolution and urged the Tamil youth to take up arms. The seasoned, English-educated, Vellahla elite was replaced by a megalomaniac who never knew how to handle power. That was the biggest mistake made by the Vellahla elite. They replaced their traditional casteist fascism with Prabhakaran’s naked political fascism which, eventually, forced Sampanthan and Sumanthiram to go on their knees before him.
The Vellahlas financed and armed the Tamil youth hoping to ride on their backs into power. But the Tamil youth had ideas of their own. They took the money and the arms and fired on the Tamil leaders who piously legitimised their violence in the Vadukoddai Resolution.
As they say, you reap what you sow. Chelvanyakam, the Father of the Vadukoddai Resolution, escaped the bullet of his beloved “boys” only because he died of natural causes before his political progeny could get him. Sadly, it was his anointed successor, Appapillai Amirthalingam, who had to pay the price for his sins. He was shot at point blank range by the pistols donated by Chelvanayakam’s Vellahla followers.
Moral : Tamils should beware of gifting pistols to Tamils. History has proved that the bullets that come out of those barrels find their loving way unerringly to lodge only in Tamil hearts.