Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
Those who wear the Tiger mask
17th January 1999
The army on Wednesday seized a 500-kilo parcel with hundreds of New Year calendars at Palaly. The package belonged to the PLOTE and had come in a military flight from Colombo. The calendars had a picture of a powerful Tiger spread across the northeast holding down with its fangs a bloodied Lion by its neck. Even the dumbest soldier checking incoming bags at Palaly couldn't miss the symbolism.
The drawing is also on the cover of the PLOTE's New Year greeting card. At Ratmalana the Airforce had let the calendar parcel through because it was that of a friendly organisation taking military flights frequently to and from Jaffna with routine clearance from the Ministry of Defence.
The matter was brought to the notice of Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte who was on an official visit to Vavuniya on Thursday along with the service commanders.
It is understood that the military authorities in charge of Vavuniya had been taken to task for letting a group under their supervision print a calendar and greeting card of this nature.
Meanwhile, the PLOTE had issued the calendar to traders in the town for hundred rupees each, an offer they could reject at their own peril.
But the army and Police have not kindly taken to this 'Tiger kills the Lion' drawing adorning the walls of shops in a town supposed to be under their control. The Directorate of Internal Intelligence, however, had to know about the matter after a note of it appeared in a Sinhala paper on Friday.
The calendar will be an irritant in the relations between the government and the PLOTE for a while and then things will be back to normal.
This is inevitably so because the government needs this and other ex-Tamil militant organisation for legitimizing its war against the LTTE.
This is the bottom line, regardless of the General's chagrin.
The ex-Tamil militants who are still hopeful of carving out a political niche for themselves in the north and east know this, and are learning to play the game accordingly.
The motive is to extract the best of both worlds - the balancing act of getting the benefits of government patronage on the one hand and tasting the real or illusory fruits of wearing a pro-Tiger mask on the other.
For example, the Amnesty International put out a statement earlier this month on the illegal abduction and detention of eight civilians in Vavuniya by the PLOTE.
The government reacted to the embarrassment by sending a CID team to investigate. Then last Monday the AI put out a statement that yet another person was missing and that he is allegedly being detained by the PLOTE.
Nevertheless, organization is apparently confident that the CID's mission is cosmetic.
And last week the PLOTE issued a strong condemnation of the government's tardiness in investigating the Chemmani mass grave in Jaffna.
Then came the greetings card and calendar calculated to impress the Tamils that the organisation is somehow in cahoots with the LTTE.
We have drawn attention to the fact on several occasions in the past that the ex-Tamil militant groups are increasingly vacillating towards the Tigers for political and other reasons, chief of which is their growing disillusionment that the PA is not going to help them deliver anything to the Tamils.
This situation is making them adept at the balancing act of having the cake and eating it until they are ensured of a firm popular political base among the Tamils.
The EPDP MP for Jaffna Mr.Sivathasan laid the foundation for Pon Sivakumaran's statue at Urumpirai junction last Sunday. EPDP says that the statue would be ready for Sivakumaran's commemoration day in June which it is planning to observe with much solemnity. The army demolished the edifice during Op. Riviresa. The Police smashed up in 1977 the original statue that was erected for him by the youth of the TULF the year before.
The army did not like that fact that the memory of the first "cyanide martyr" of the armed Tamil separatists should be revived at this point when it is trying hard to wean away a new generation of Jaffna youth from militancy.
It is well known that the EPDP's Thinamurasu, the stunning success of which as a political weekly is unprecedented, has become radically and articulately sympathetic to the Tigers.
Why are the ex-Tamil militants who took to the so-called mainstream politics doing this, wearing the Tiger mask that ill suits them? For one, they know that it is politically suicidal to be seen on side of the PA today as it has lost its credibility totally among the Tamils.
The issues which are currently available to them as means of stirring the Tamil sentiment in the North and East in their favour are Chemmani, the Liganagar settlement and the opening of the new market in Trincomalee and the plight of the refugees in the Wanni. The PA is the unequivocal villain of the piece in every one of these current questions that irritate the Tamil psyche.
And the government of Chandrika Kumaratunge is doing everything it can to exacerbate each issue, the very opposite of Premadasa's shrewd assuaging tactics. The CID seeks permission to investigate the Chemmani gravesite precisely at a time when the place is completely under water. 'Amuthu', a new Lake House Tamil publication carried an article by a staff writer who attempts to ignominiously and despicably cover up Chemmani and white wash the PA.(Talk about rubbing salt on Jaffna's biggest wound!)
The list is long.
The ex-Tamil militants strongly feel that the LTTE and those Tamil politicians who openly sympathize with it today monopolize the Tamil polity, the way the TULF did before 1977. This is the raw truth regardless of what they may pretend to diplomats, government politicians and Sinhala journalists.
Anyway, their actions, as we pointed out, clearly betray this fact.
One of them explained their current mindset succinctly "if Prabhaharan had continued with the negotiations he began with the PA, he would have been still talking and listlessly hanging around in Colombo with a few bodyguards, meeting junior diplomats and holding forth on nothing at cocktail parties."
Now all this does not mean that they want to take the plunge and vanish into the forests of the Wanni to fight for the Eelam cause, the memory of which is still firmly imprinted on the names of their outfits (if one may borrow that queer expression from Indian English).
Twelve years of a cushy life in the army controlled towns of the NE and in Colombo - no toil, no sweat - have permanently ruined their chances, even if they desire so, of returning to the jungles. So they seek to have the best of both worlds. They have come too far to care that they slip too often in their endeavour.