Colombo, Jaffna, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Big Game

A group of men are standing in an outdoor location. They are grinning and laughing and are triumphant but most importantly of all, they exude an air of victory. The camera pans out to reveal four or so neatly arranged bodies on the grass in front of them. The men pass a dog tag amongst themselves, they finger it, look closely at it and ask an unseen photographer to take photographs. There is an air of jubilation.

I have seen this sort of picture before. Old photographs of colonial masters in Asia and Africa holding rifles aloft, an air of triumph and victory on their faces, their trophies displayed before them. Often there are two native bearers, flanking the masters, with appropriate expressions of blankness. The photographs were a documentation of a momentous occasion for the men. The trophies of big game – Lions, tigers, leopards, elephants, rhinos etc.

On May 19th 2009, the picture on television was also of big game – human tigers. The leadership of the one of the world’s most fearsome terrorist groups – The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam lay before the army – vanquished, dead. The entire population of Sri Lanka was shown these images, sometimes in gruesome detail, sometimes in unnecessary repetition.

From the weekend, when it was known that the LTTE was defeated, the population of Colombo and by assumption the rest of the island began to celebrate. Crackers were lit, lorries and trucks reminiscent of big match trucking, flew Sri Lankan flags, tooted their horns and raced up and down streets. Men and women danced on the streets, they distributed sweets and drinks and milk rice and gathered at junctions holding Sri Lankan flags aloft. The Sri Lankan flag was everywhere – houses and businesses flew them, streets were decorated with them, even vehicles draped the flag in every possible way. It was clear that the Sri Lankan people, tired of war, conflict, terrorism, suicide bombs, landmines, child soldiers, check points, etc., etc. were proud of the defeat of terrorism.

Day after day, I can hear the sounds of victory. Day after day, I hear the silence of a defeated people. For that is the unspoken message that is being shouted out from the rooftops. We won! So someone lost! Who is that someone? For me, that someone is all of us. When I see all these jubilant people, I think of the Tamil people, I wonder what they must be thinking, how they must be feeling? Are they scared? Are they worried? Are they jubilant? Are they flying Sri Lankan flags?

I personally do not think we should be ‘celebrating’ the end of the war like this. I heard someone say, that perhaps it would have been better if the people went to temple and prayed. Yes, perhaps that would have been better. Infinitely better. Each time I hear a jubilant vehicle, I cringe, each time I see a group of people dancing in celebration, I want to turn away. Why do I feel like this? What is my problem? And then I realize that many of my friends feel the same way. We can’t all be wrong.

I suppose that I am upset with the way we are dealing with the end of the war. Even Dutta Gamini showed Elara great respect in death. Even he, a king I didn’t think much of, had greater courtesy that the current people and leadership of today. What a come down for a people who have 2500 years of history and culture, to behave in such an uncultured way.

Prabhakaran didn’t come out of the woodwork fully grown. He grew to such powerful heights for a reason. That reason must be addressed. If not, all I can say is that after 26 years of war, we haven’t learnt our lesson. And when you fail to learn a lesson, you have to repeat the grade. An ominous message that we should listen to.

In closing I just want to say that there is a Sri Lankan flag folded and kept in my room. I see it everyday when I wake up, and when I go to bed. That flag will fly when I am proud to be a Sri Lankan. Right now it is still folded.

  • rajivmw

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Triumphalism is evil, celebrations are a crying shame, if we don’t behave ourselves we’ll be punished bad, really really bad. Ok, we get the point already. How much more of this do we have to endure on groundviews?

    Don’t get me wrong. I agree with much of what’s been said. And just for the record, I haven’t been dancing in the streets, nor have I daubed every available surface with the lion flag. But did you really expect everyone to mark the end of a long and brutal war in quiet meditation?

    All this will pass in a few days, so there’s no need for quite so much gloom and solemn sanctimony. Maybe peace didn’t come in the way we would have wanted, but it has arrived nevertheless. And I for one believe that though the prospects for reconciliation and healing may seem challenging today, they are still infinitely better than they were during the war.

  • “We won! So someone lost! Who is that someone?”

    The someone who lost was the terror organisation who killed thousands of innocents on their journey to achieve the dreams and aspirations of a single man. A megalomaniac who wanted to be called the ‘Sun God’ by the Tamil people.

    It’s definitely NOT the Tamil people who have lost this battle.

    I hope this answers your question.

  • Dayan John

    Yes I too experienced this “gloom”, and was wondering whats wrong with me. I don’t even approve of most of the acts of the fallen leader. I realised what was making me sad was the insecurity of the tamil community and the sheer apathy with regards to the IDPs tragedy in Vavuniya.

    I am now discovering that there are many who feel like i do.

  • Heshan

    After the celebrations, the reality will sink in. The lack of jobs, the corruption of politicians, the terrible state of the economy, the fact that the minorities have very real grievances which need to be addressed, etc. No amount of flag-waving and alcohol guzzling will make these disappear. They are real-time issues which demand real-time solutions. I don’t think this Government has a plan. The “war” was basically one big non-stop killing spree. India was there to coordinate and keep international protests at bay. India, however, cannot do the job of reconstruction alone. This is where the Rajapakse gang and their 109 jumbo henchmen will fail miserably. I would not be surprised if we see a different sort of celebration in the not too distant future: crowds gathered outside Parliament demanding food and jobs.

  • George Gunasekera

    Sri Lankans are inteligent people. So far celebartions have been peaceful and Sri Lankans have been celebrating the end of ruthless terrorism,end of killing children travelling to schools,workers being killed while going to work and returning home,killing of innocent farmers in remote villages etc.,etc. Let us give a chance for our politicians to save the country this time. Firstly settle the IDP’s,implement maximum divolution of power,develop the country so that all citizens will live in contentment and peace.Surely, all Sri Lankans should be able to trust our able President to grab this golden opportunity to lead the country to peace and prosperity this time.

  • Agreed!

    I have always maintained the fact that this war is a symptom of a disease, and treating the symptom by no means will cure the disease.

    And many people who dont see the larger picture are celebrating with only a symptom being mitigated. As important as it is that the symptom should be mitigated to catalyse the process of complete cure – stopping at only the symptom being reduced can be catastrophic, and there is potential for the disease to strike back with greater vengeance!

    There have already been requests to seniors in the Governement that villages in the north be renamed to credit military personnel. I hope the government pays no heed to these requests and lets sanity prevail. If such a request was to be heeded and villages which bear age old historic names in the north were renamed that would clear strike the emotions of the traditional inhabitants of the north and it can only fester antoganistic thoughts amongst these people.

    I have always been hopeful and optimistic of the future, but presently i am a prisoner of my own scepticism and apprehension.

  • I agree with you to a certain extent but one and only Sri Lankan flag I possessed is flying high in a foreign land where I live.

    What is wrong with that? SLG and SLA did the most wanted part; it is up to others to male the victory meaningful afterward.

    Total annihilation of murderous tiger clan is more than something to celebrate for me.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    hey lady, you obviously haven’t seen photos of V day after WW 2, or of the banners of the defeated Nazi army divisions being thrown at Stalin’s feet by the victorious Red Army in its parade, or those of the triumphant Sandinista army lounging about in Somoza’s just evacuated bunker (poetess Giaconda Belli writes how she and her FSLN lover got down and dirty right then right there), or Fidel reviewing a parade in Addis Ababa with his booted feet up on Emperor Haille Selassie’s royal footstool.

  • ethnichybrid

    oh great! so those are our examples of behaviour! Red Army, Sandanista’s? Why emulate the lowest common denominator. What ever happened to the Lord Buddha’s teachings? But I suppose we know now what more to expect and it certainly won’t be maitriya.

  • Kodisinghe Herath

    The Sri Lankans who are`living in Sri Lanka have been suffering of the LTTE threat for more than 30 years. They could not assure of their return or their sons, daghters, husbands and wife return after leaving home for work, school or for somyhing to in the city. They did not have any safe places in Sri Lanka. They had to go through security checking thousands times. Why? because of LTTE.
    When they heard of the death of LTTE. Who will not express their relieve. They expelled their happiness by hopping into the street and wagging the National flag.

    King Elara was a king. He never killed innocent Sinhalese at all. He killed his son for doing harm to a cow (animal). He was such a remarkable king. He deserve the respect. What Prabkaran did. Did he respect any human?. He killed preists, devotees of Buddha, Alla and` Jesus. He killed inocent children. He killed pregnant women by bursting the abdomen and taking off the foetus. Who is the fool telling to respect Velu Pillai in a similar way that was done to King Elara?.

    • Namal

      We should question ourselves who created them to kill… We should look at the cause as well.

  • Bandara

    Starting from the killing of Jaffna Mayor in 1975, the murderer Prabhakaran continued his genocide until just before his death.

    From remote jungle village farmer to two country heads, he brought instant death penalty exhibiting his ruthlessness to the whole world. People lived either in Kebithigollawa or Colombo city were in fear of civilian attacks either by hacking or bombing while sleeping or travelling.

    Why not Sri Lankan should celebrate the event?

  • MK

    A well written blog.
    Atleast Sri lankans are becoming quite “forward” in their thoughts… I feel pity on my fellow Indians who still think the neighbouring state is always an enemy.

  • The ‘Correct Thinking’ people are always silent till some event compells them to voice their opinion.
    Here we find a sober and well considered opinion amply supported by everyone though they differ in either to celebrate or offer prayers for the demise of a psychopath, megalomaniac.
    It’s time we realise the Lankan Tamils, in general, were wary of Pirabakaran and his gun totting ”LTTE”. They certainly did not ask the people before declaring to be their ”sole representatives”.
    The members of parliament of Tamil National Alliance under Sampanthan are inhuman cowardly rouges who did not condemn LTTE at any time they bombed and killed ordinary citizens.
    I do hope the awakened ”good citizens”, people like you, will raise your voice against a section that is harassing the Tamils by demanding money to celebrate the victory over LTTE.
    And when Police refuse to entertain such complaints the hearts of the victims will once again seek redress, as in July 1983, and give rise to another psychopath.
    We are willing to grab your hand of friendship, we are waiting for your hand of friendship, we need your hand in friendship to convince our little educated section that falls prey to vociferous racial fanatics.
    It’s time for us to rise above our current politicians and build a nation of unity, peace and prosperity !

  • The LTTE was the ugly boil on the skin, not the cancer within.

    The ugly boil has been cut away and now we see the cancer within.

  • Kodisinghe…

    Perhaps you should reflect on these facts:
    – Premadasa’s Government killed more Sinhalese civillians than Velu’s LTTE.
    – Rajapakse’s Government has killed more civillians (mostly Tamil, but it doesn’t matter) than Velu and Premada combined.

    Neither Premadasa or Rajapakse set out to be killers. It wasn’t bloodlust that made them do what they did – it was tactical. The killings of civillians were unavoidable – they were means to an end.

    Reflect also on this:
    – Many Tamils were afraid of/disliked/did not support Velu and the LTTE and yet, they do not join in the celebrations. If its a victory of good over evil, then they should. Perhaps they are afraid? Perhaps they remember what Sri Lanka was like in 1958, 1977, 1983 and all the years in between those ugly reminders?