News & Updates
Both news media and general public can find important information
about updates, alerts and events that impact human rights in Sri Lanka

Deep reflections of a defeated generation...

2013 Nov 21

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and conscience approves his conduct will pursue his principles unto his death.”


- Thomas Paine


By Vishnugupta



Kadiresan looked through the little hole in the canvas that sheltered him from the scorching heat. The sun was beating down on the canvas, causing it to be dried up close to the point of burning. The Northern skies, they say, are more brutal than the ones over the rest of the country, not because the sun was more irate and fuming or its rays were more penetrative and piercing, but because the earth that it fell on is more arid and parched, the air more devoid of moisture and the consequential effect suffocates the lungs and deadens the spirit. Kadiresan is only 15 years old.


His release from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp has placed him back with his widowed mother. Kadiresan’s father, Thangavelu who was a card-carrying member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was killed by the Security Forces during the war, for he carried just more than a card: He was a member of the armed cadres of a fighting unit of the LTTE, and as a result, he carried guns, bombs, landmines and other paraphernalia usually associated with a guerilla fighter.



Kadiresan cannot remember when he last saw his father. That was eons ago and he was only a five or six years old then. Thangavelu had come home for a short stay with the family, prior to a major operation in the Vavuniya jungles. Kadiresan didn’t understand the nuances of terrorism and ‘freedom-fighting.’ He couldn’t relate to his father’s fight against the Security Forces of the government. All he could remember was that he never had to sleep anywhere else other than in his own bed in his parents’ own home. His father had attended the Jaffna University as an engineering student and did not complete the degree. His graduation really took place somewhere else, in the dense jungles of the Northern Peninsula. His knowledge on engineering came handy for the Tigers and he was an easy recruit to the cadres of the LTTE.



Kadiresan’s story is fascinating as much as it is gruesome, tragic and sad. It is being lived and relived by thousands of lads of his age scattered all over the Northern Province. Even though the armed conflict started sometime in the late 1970s and in the early 80s in earnest, the struggle for recognition as equal partners of the same family of Ceylonese then and Sri Lankans now, commenced in the second or third decade of the 20th Century.



Most constructive political dialogue



The entry of the Ponnambalam brothers, Ramanathan and Arunachalam, into the political arena occurred with  Ponnambalam Ramanathan entering the then Legislative Council in the late 19th Century, and his acceptance by the leading Sinhalese politicians of the day that came about with the Sinhala-Muslim riots that erupted in 1915. It was Ponnambalam Ramanathan who took the fight on behalf of his Sinhalese brothers to the Whitehall in Britain, and engaged the British Parliamentarians in a most constructive political dialogue that ended with the release of the Sinhalese leaders such as F.R. Senanayake and D.S. Senanayake. Then it was one family – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and the rest.



When the Sinhalese leaders gathered around themselves a more cohesive working group of educated, wealthy and sensitive political minds, they turned to the younger of the Ponnambalam brothers, Ponnambalam Arunachalam to lead them. Ponnambalam Arunachalam became the first President of the Ceylon National Congress. That was again eons ago in the later years of the second decade of the 20th Century, in 1919 to be exact.



Not Kadiresan and not even the so-called Sinhalese leaders of today who occupy the exalted seats of power can remember these hard facts. Or perhaps they have chosen to ignore these facts, for these facts do not fall within the realm of acceptability in the extremist-driven Sinhalese majority mindset.



All violence is evil; all wars are cruel and they simply do not see the rights and wrongs; they do not differentiate between friends and foes. When driven to violence and war, man becomes another animal, totally insensitive to the nicer human traits that set him apart from other beings. This holds true whether one is Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher. Enraged by his own prejudices of colour, creed, caste and faith, man goes on to make his judgmental decisions – decisions that are essentially flawed because those judgments were made in a state of anger and hatred, in envy and resentment, and in a rush and hurry. The catastrophic consequences that ensue become their tragic legacy and the inheritance of future generations.



The war between the LTTE and Sri Lankan Armed Forces ended in May 2009. But the enmity continues to this day, not necessarily between the fighting units, but between the two peoples. To inflame the rage of the Sinhalese majority against the Tamils, not the Tigers but Tamils in general, Senas and Balakayas have been given birth to, and are being nourished and provoked consistently by those who wield real power. But one must remember that what was defeated in May 2009 was the terrorist army of the Tamil militants, not the Tamil people nor their legitimate aspirations and hopes and dreams. Triumphalism cannot take hold of a psyche and dictate terms to a docile majority who have been brainwashed in the superiority of ‘the Land, the Race and the Faith.’ The nasty consequences of such a destructive thinking process and the damage it causes to the mind of man cannot be overstated. Depravity of values, corruption of traditions, wickedness or envy and dishonesty of the intellect, could all lead to a point, which, once crossed, offers no turning back.



Politics playing a cruel game



The commitment of man’s inhumanity to man by one party does not justify its commitment by another. It is only the weak and frail that engages in such frivolous indulgences. The strong has the potency and the will to forgive and carry on, for the future may hold much more than one can brag about the past.



Kadiresan will not have to make these choices now, in the immediate future, but one day he will have to make his choices. His father’s generation did not make that choice wisely. Neither did that generation possess that quality, which brings about the superiority of man above everything else. The spirit that moved history from  its dawn until today is still living and vibrant; it’s still breathing and pulsating, its perpetual feature of being born and reborn would energize those who desire to be energized but not necessarily those who ‘need’ to be energized. A major portion of the current crisis is that those who need to be energized have chosen to disregard the necessity to be energized in the right direction. Politics is playing its cruel game over and over again.



Kadiresan should not be overjoyed with the election of his own Chief Minister nor should he be discouraged and distressed by the sloganeering of the Southern politicians and their coteries. Remember, history is created and moved by peacemakers and not by war-mongers; warriors and arm-dealers may change the geography of a country or even a continent for a short time but it was those who had the desire and spirit for lasting peace who changed history so that new generations could breathe free air, practise free-speech and live as free men and women.



To do the right thing is not easy. Kadiresan must gather that strength and spirit to do the right thing by his generation, by his people and by his own history. Then the unexpected visit of the British Prime Minister to his midst would not matter. Kadiresan would have better things to do than to attend a modern-day public relation exercise.

Search News & Updates