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A Review – “A Fleeting Moment in My Country”

by Dr. N. Malathy, Clarity Press
Reviewed by Victor Cherubim

(December 19, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A “fleeting moment” is the title of Dr. Malathy’s book and refers to her life in the Vanni, Sri Lanka, no fleeting moment, from 2005 to 2009 with the LTTE. During this period she has worked in a human rights institution, a women’s organisation and an orphanage. She says her experience spanned working with the LTTE to release child soldiers, prepare documentation for peace talks, and working to raise awareness of domestic violence.

She writes of her recollections of her experiences among both the “freedom fighters” to some, “terrorists” to others, including child soldiers and “Tigers,” as well as ordinary Tamil
civilians, who sacrificed everything for a homeland.

To her mind the greatest achievement in this liberation struggle was not a homeland, but the
“liberation of women”. Women’s role in the Tamil community was seen as restricted by tradition and custom. She speaks vividly of the restrictions of women’s role in society.

Living behind the so called “enemy lines” her narrative exposes an explosion of caste, creed and other sensitivities which had cramped the life of women in the community. She states
rightly or wrongly of the liberation of women by the LTTE, as if was a virtue.

This “liberation” she maintains was not natural,thus there was a continuous tug of war between parents and children, between established norms of society and freedom for womanhood, as girls including women elders took to arms, as breadwinners to prove they were equal to men, in battle.

She also expresses a release for society from other psychological binds, “karma” not excluded, as life in the Vanni was viewed as a continuous battle against man’s inhumanity, the incessant falling of enemy bombs, the unbearable escape into bunkers for shelter, the impact on health care and medical facilities, the devastation by the forces of nature including the tsunami in 2004, the varied forms of deception, guile by the enemy and the final abandonment of the cause by traitors, among others Karuna, which depleted the morale of the people.

All through the struggle she states the LTTE faced an impossible dream. It took various forms, misrepresentation by the management of the media, India’s double talk, including the
occupation of the North thus undermining and underestimating the bravery of the LTTE, destruction of life and limb by the enemy forces, destroying security, family life and society.
The most indescribable fault of the LTTE was lack of political acumen.

She concludes by her reluctant acceptance of cruelty, injustice, the gravity of the war and
what the Tamils lost. In a harsh, if not a cruel world, she cries, the Tamils lost not only their homeland, but their identity.

According to a recent edition of the “Washington Times,”
“Most often when people fight for their homeland, there is no ideology, except to keep their homeland. But geopolitics has a different agenda. The philosophy of freedom must include what to do when separation or devolution occurs. There must be equality before the law. But history has shown in countries such as Eritrea, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, that they oppose each other, forgetting that freedom is more than achieving a homeland.

As some attention of the world turns to Sri Lanka, the Tamils must adopt stances beyond oppression from Sinhalese. The Tamils must convince its followers that the path to freedom is equality before the law.”

In short, “No Tamil can be better than another Tamil, under the Law.”

To be seen as different to others in Sri Lanka is not an accolade. To be a victim of oppression is no qualification. To be vanquished in war is no big deal. To be whinging all the time of the “karma” of existence, is an escape from reality. To blame caste, for our evils is cowardice.

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