By Rajan Hoole –
We now return to the theme we had begun with, which from our experience strikes us as the main element which enabled the society to connive with the Black Tiger cult – the assault on freedom. We begin with the romanticisation of suicide from the July 1999 issue of the pro-LTTE expatriate journal Hot Spring. It said in an introductory note on Socrates, “He taught people to think about good and evil, in order to improve their own behaviour. Some people did not approve of his ideas and he was forced to commit suicide.” An attempt is then made to link Socrates, Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran and today’s Tigers: “Since 1974 [when Sivakumaran committed suicide by taking cyanide to evade capture], hundreds of young Tamil heroes and heroines have demonstrated their mental courage by standing up for their beliefs and following the footsteps of Socrates and Sivakumaran.”
This description of the modern Tigers is important for the Tamil elite in order salve their consciences. Surely, when the young commit suicide for a cause that is unashamedly totalitarian and has no pretensions of offering anything tangibly human, we should be instantly driven to condemn those responsible for inflicting this outrage.
Let us begin with Sivakumaran. His death took place a year before the first Tiger organisation (Tamil New Tigers) was formed. Sivakumaran is described by those who knew him as having been a good human being and a good student at school. He was a militant, and though from the high caste, he fought against caste. He campaigned against the slaughter of goats at the Urumparai Vairavar Temple. He was poetically talented and published a hand- written newspaper.
It would be a grave distortion to compare Sivakumaran with Prabhakaran’s Tigers. Sivakumaran was an active reformer, trying to politicise the people and build a mass base. The Tigers were quite the opposite. Prabhakaran did not believe in politicising the people – he had a contempt for them. His model for the movement was drawn from the mafia cult and secret societies of the smuggling fraternity in Valvettiturai – his hometown. Sivakumaran valued freedom, lived a free man, died of his own free will and wanted his people to value freedom. Prabhakaran has no place for freedom or self-criticism within the movement. Rules were there to be obeyed by his cadre and the cost of breach was death. Sivakumaran was a popular youth in his area who inspired others to selfless ideals. Prabhakaran was ambitious in a secretive and withdrawn manner, and his politics brought out the lowest in people.
Sivakumaran died aged 24, at the height of youthful idealism, and had he lived, society may have corrupted him. While young Prabhakaran cannot be said to have been devoid of ideals, the manner in which he and his society interacted with each other changed both for the worse. While the LTTE professes some token reforms to impress the naive, utility alone governs its social ethics. If two neighbours were simply jealous, by creating conditions where they could hope for gain by informing on one another, the LTTE made them homicidally jealous. If one could satisfy one’s greed through acquiring someone else’s property by informing on him, one was encouraged to do so. If one could get a pass from the LTTE to get out of its miserable regime and join a cousin in France for the price of hosting a bomber in Colombo who may destroy dozens of other lives, one was pushed into it. In effect, the politics of the LTTE found freedom in its nobler forms completely abhorrent and thus its social influence became loathsome.
It was this tortured society that produced the “Black Tiger” phenomenon. It would be wrong to give uniform reasons why young men and women are willing to blow themselves up for a cause that promises only misery to the people. Occasionally there are some intelligent persons going into it. But they are mostly persons broken internally and in need of release. Many distressed youths who were disillusioned with their organisation, bit the cyanide capsule when a pretext arose, and were conveniently commemorated as martyrs. We give below the case of a youth killed in the late 1980’s, who, had he lived, would have been a good candidate for the Black Tigers (our Report No. 6):
An LTTE area leader killed by the IPKF was described by his brother as having been a ‘lamb’ before he joined the organisation. The brother came to know what he had been through from confessions made to his aunt before he died. This area leader was very loyal to the LTTE leadership and never questioned their orders. This obedience was put to maximum use. He was occasionally given secret instructions to kill certain comrades in the organisation marked out by internal intelligence as having dissident, and therefore dangerous, tendencies. The method often adopted was to get into a conversation with the intended victim, take him on a motorbike ride, and do the deed in a lonely place. Having done this several times the area leader felt deeply disturbed and poured out his mind to his aunt. After about a year in the organisation, he developed some maniacal tendencies. He said that when he faced someone, he simply felt like pulling out his pistol and putting a bullet into the person’s head, even into his father’s head, just to see how the victim suffered.
He had also told his aunt, that secret instructions had been given from time to time to trusted individuals, to surreptitiously finish off a comrade on the battle field, so as to put the blame on the enemy. This practice had long been talked about, so that the deaths of many LTTEers were not taken at face value. Now close relatives of this deceased area leader work hard for this organisation abroad not knowing the truth about their ‘martyr brother’.
Over the years, one could pick out several such experiences. One of the four LTTEers who on 21st October 1987 fired at the advancing Indian Army column from the balcony of the Jaffna hospital doctors’ quarters and ran away, broke down in later years. As the immediate consequence of their action the Indian Army stormed the hospital, treating it as an LTTE fortress, and seventy civilians were killed. Many LTTEers were regularly asked to perform actions that were deliberately aimed at creating civilian causalities for propaganda purposes. During the Indian Army’s advance again, the column led by tanks had come near Kokkuvil junction, carefully avoiding hitting Kokkuvil Hindu College, which was a refugee, camp. As a tank passed the school gate, unknown to the refugees, the LTTE fired at the Indian Army from the top floor of the main school building. The tank gunner swung the barrel 120 degrees and fired at the building, killing over 30 innocent civilians (see The Broken Palmyrah). Well known is the case of the brainwashed 12 year old in the group sent into Eravur to massacre civilians. He smashed the head of a Muslim infant against the wall and stabbed its wailing mother. Many were broken through being made to inflict terrible tortures on prisoners.
Among the routine dealings of LTTE cadre with civilians is that of placing a mine in a residential area in the expectation that once one or two soldiers in a patrol are killed, the Army would run amok in the area. A civilian discovering that a mine has been placed near his house is allowed to go away with his family. But if he warns one or two neighbours as well, he is considered a traitor deserving punishment. Imposing such a selfish morality on civilians affects the cadre as well.
Being made to act in such an abominable way in a variety of situations, the organisation progressively destroys the moral fibre, mental well being and the souls of its members. Of course owing to the experience of state oppression, a number of new recruits come into the organisation wanting to do things with great enthusiasm. But once inside, particularly those with a high degree of perceptiveness are driven to suppress their ordinary moral sense. They adopt as an article of faith, the belief that the inhuman and immoral things they do are necessary evils on the road towards the ultimate good – Tamil Eelam, the inexorable goal of the organisation.
Some can drown their doubts in total dedication and worship extended to the Leader. But more often, it is only human to doubt, become disillusioned, and then become cynical about everything. Ending one’s days as a Black Tiger frequently comes as the last act of waning faith and a merciful release. Those who have encountered Black Tigers did not see persons bubbling with enthusiasm for their cause, but rather subdued persons, almost apologising for inflicting their presence on this world. They are in need of counselling and rehabilitation. But many members of the Tamil elite rather, find in the exploding atoms of their bodies, the elixir to drive their expanding egos.
There is thus a huge chasm, which separates today’s Black Tigers from Socrates and Sivakumaran. The latter were zealous for their freedom. But the Black Tigers represent the pathology of a society that has all but snuffed out freedom. It is easy to see why the expatriate lobby finds it necessary to muffle the difference.
In the course of extinguishing freedom for his fellow Tamils, Prabhakaran himself ceased to be a free man. He has bound himself in a faith he himself wove. To force the society towards his dream destiny, he is throwing in everything he has, the life, sanity and the well being of his people, along with all the destructive hardware his expatriate network has placed at his command. He has condemned himself to carrying on as he has done, and the society to pay the price for his vanity, until mortality performs its act of mercy.
*To be continued..
*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here