Football on one side and genocide on the other
| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(May 18, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) “If I allowed food, medicine and essential items into the LTTE controlled areas in Batticaloa, the children will only grow fat and join the LTTE,” Eastern Commander Colonel Zaki in 2000 told this writer responding to a question why he placed an economic embargo. Then tea was served but remained untouched. No further questions were necessary.
Banned items by the commander were sugar, safety matches, batteries, fertilisers, kerosene and petrol, quinine among the 121 gazetted.
On my return to Colombo, Thinakkural - a Tamil daily started with 30 staff from Veerakesari - and Sunday Leader published my story with the above quote. Soon I was hounded with telephone calls to retract the story or else…. followed by frequent visits of the CID to my house.
I left Sri Lanka under pressure from my family members who gave me an ultimatum that unless I listened to them and come to UK they could hardly come to my help if something happened to me. In retrospective I am not sure whether I should have listened to them since only my body lives here but my spirit is in Sri Lanka among Sri Lankans.
I choose the word Sri Lankans intentionally since I identify myself first as a Sri Lankan and then as a Catholic but I did not envisage my Tamil identity would veer me towards taking my pen instead of joining the LTTE to give voice to the voiceless be they impoverished Sinhala youth from rural villages or hot-blooded Tamils joining the LTTE.
It all started in April 1971 with the JVP uprising who were short-shrifted by Mrs B. She provoked rural Sinhala youth to quell UNP victory and on taking power ignored them. Tamil youth followed suit as Federal Party stalwarts while outwardly calling for self-determination for Tamils ignored the frustration of the youth who were affected by the standardisation in gaining entrance to universities brought about by the then education minister I.M.R.A. Iriyagolla and lack of job opportunities in the state sector.
Federal Party MPs were meting out willy-nilly chits for their supporters to get government jobs.
My youngest sister who obtained one B, two C’s and an ordinary pass in her A/L s was denied any place in the university took a kitchen knife to her throat threatening to kill herself when my father managed to prise it from her placating he would send her to Oxford if he was to sell all of our lands to pay for her degree.
She is now a scientist in the Silicon Valley in the US researching drugs to cure cancer.
Thirteen years on, two victory parades are being celebrated 6,000 miles apart; one is Arsenal’s FA Cup win in London and the other is the genocide of Tamils in the deep south of sunny Sri Lanka. Here too the sun is out and the weather is glorious. But it is raining cats and dogs today among those who are bereaving their loved ones killed by the actions of the maniac of a President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his acolytes Gotabaya, Sarath Fonseka, Palitha Kohona, Shavindra de Silva et al.
Eugenics (wiping out anyone who would not conform to the myth of a race consisting of blue eyed and blond Aryans as Hitler intended) is the first lesson taught at the Defence Academy in Diyatalawa. I felt sorry for Colonel Zaki since behind his handsome features and tall stature there lay a punitive brain the size of an amoeba.
Today’s victory parade would have repercussions and re-ignite Tamil sentiments how the government is incapable of understanding the trauma suffered by its own populace be they the Sinhala youth from the villages who were mesmerised into a war they did not want and the Tamil freedom fighters who had no recourse but to seek militancy to carve out an enclave where minorities can live with dignity sans state terrorism.
It goes without saying the Rajapaksa government is an autocratic family run state with terrorism as its weapon to declare the island as a Sinhala Buddhist nation where minorities should eat humble pie and accept the crumbs the majority provides and forever be grateful.
The honeymoon of the Rajapaksas is nearing an end and its dirty display of victory parade will not go un-noticed by the UNHRC which has sent several Heads of State to face war crimes tribunal and succeeded in in indicting them. So let us give the Rajapaksas one last fling before its demise and incarceration in Hague.
(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)