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Book Review- Sri Lanka: Public Writings on Sri Lanka- Vol. 3 by Charles Sarvan

Paper No. 6333                                  Dated  27-Dec-2017
(Published by Cinnamon Teal Publishing- 2017)
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
This book, a collection of essays on Sri Lanka is a continuation of two other volumes on the same subject by Professor Charles Sarvan.  The theme of the book reiterates what was said in Volume 2 that “contrary to promise and much-cherished hope, the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers has not yet ushered in an age of justice, peace and prosperity for all.”  Indeed the plight of the Tamils has become much worse than what was before and this is the impression one gets on going through the book. It is sad and unfortunate that the poor and innocent Tamils in the north and east have been let down once again.
This book makes compelling reading and it is difficult to put it down once you had started reading.  The theme is well represented in the excellent summary of the condition of Tamils mentioned in the chapter : “Withering hopes”- a booklet published in 2016 by PEARL, an acronym for the USA based non-profit organisation on the plight of Tamils written after a fact-finding visit to the East and North.  It describes the current plight of the Tamils in the north and east- “Violence and harassment by members of the security forces, occupation of traditional homelands acquired illegally, torture and sexual violence on Tamils, absence of answers for families of the ‘disappeared’ and the continued detention of Tamil political prisoners without charge.”    
One quote from the PEARL Report would suffice to describe the current situation and of the north looks like a defeated country.  “Victory monuments, and military bases dominate the landscape of the Tamil areas and serve as celebratory reminders of the annihilatory violence in which tens of thousands of Tamils lost their lives.”
It is in the fitness of things that Prof. Sarvan should discuss extensively the article in another context by Brian Senewiratne on  “sexual violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka”.   Though the article focusses on rape there are other forms of injustice that have been perpetrated and vividly described. It is disgusting to say the least and one is left with helpless rage.
To this day, the Sri Lankan Government has said nothing about the fate of over 2000 ex LTTE cadres who were taken into custody soon after the massacre at Nandikadal. Are they alive or have they been disposed off illegally?  The fate of Balakumar of EROS who had stayed on for his own survival in the LTTE controlled area is a case in point.
There are two interesting articles juxtaposed with each other - one “on a long watch” by Commodore Ajith Boyagoda’ and another by the victor of Nandikadal-Major General Kamal Gunaratne- “Road to Nandikadal.” Boyagoda spent eight years in the custody of the Tigers and he had only praise for the treatment he received.  Paramedics came to see the prisoners every day.  Food parcels received from relatives were meticulously handed over to the individuals.  When a fellow prisoner died, he was given a gun salute before being handed over to ICRC.  Boyagoda wryly comments that no one wanted to hear his account!  He was brave enough to acknowledge it! An interesting event mentioned by Boygoda and quoted by the author was that Tamil Tigers joined prisoners in cheering when Sri Lanka won the World Cup! 
The author’s comments on the book by the vain glorious Maj. General Gunaratne should be read by everyone interested on the Eelam struggle.  Gen. Gunaratne with blood on his hands of killing over 40,000 innocent Tamils at Nandikadal boasts of his soldiers fighting with a loaded weapon in one hand and a book on human rights in the other. (Page 34). Gunaratne a terrorist himself, justifies killing of all LTTE leaders including those who surrendered and has no remorse for his actions! ( Shooting of Natesan who came out with a white flag is one example.) The author’s comments on Gunaratne are worth noting.  He says - “Devoid of honesty born of moral courage, Major General Gunaratene also lacks imaginative, human sympathy: indeed bravery takes different forms.  He repeatedly draws attention to grief and sorrow on one side but does not pause to note that such extreme and excruciating pain is endured on the other side as well: they are also human, equally sentient, human beings.”  Prof. Sarvan has been in my view generous to the General and just as the General refers to the LTTE - he is also of the same kind and rabies has no cure!
There is one other article of the author that is a “must read” for interested readers- titled “The Prabhakaran phenomenon: towards an explanation”.  He acknowledged that Prabhakaran had a goal, a desired end.  He was often brilliant in tactics but was abysmal in strategy.  Prabhakaran was inflexible to the end and that was his undoing.  I agree with the author that Prabhakaran did not listen to advice and over ruled his commanders. He thought that a military solution is possible and to the very end failed to see that the LTTE stood no chance in a conventional battle and that too when he was internationally isolated.  The end was inevitable.  
As to the Prabhakaran phenomenon, the author suggests one “possible factor”- namely the Tamil post-independence experience of exclusion, subordination and violence- violence (riots by mobs excited and encouraged by the State and by the State itself via its armed forces.  It was true as he mentions that reasonable and eloquent speeches in parliament, peace protests and satyagraha, had not the slightest effect.  The so-called democracy proved to be but majoritarianism and most undemocratic” Add to this as a reader in response has said- 1. The Tigers at one point seemed unstoppable and the image of the timid ‘tamil” . . . changed and Tamils were given pride and self confidence.  2.There is no record of Tigers ever indulging in rape much less gang rape- in the stripping naked, taunting and humiliating of Sinhalese be they soldiers or civilians.” 
This book along with the previous two books on the subject should be read by all Tamils as well as those interested in History.  As the first article begins- it is an attempt for Tamils of the present and even more, future generations interested in history to reflect and understand how and why Eelam Tamils came to be in such a sorry plight.