The singer might change but the song remains the same: A critical look at Roberts and Sarvananthan ‘outing’ Niromi de Soyza

“….. Everybody believed them to be solid and inanimate – to be true facts. No one yet understood that life would become an uncomfortable, endless walk down a sea shore laid thick with facts of all sizes and shapes. Boulders, pebbles, shards, perfect ovals. No one had begun to imagine that these facts were without any order, opposed or natural – that facts were as meaningful as raw vocabulary without grammar or sentences. A man could pick up any fact he wished and fling it into the sea and make it skip. A practical talented arm could make it skip three, perhaps four times while a lesser limb might make a single plunk with the same concrete proof of some truth or other. Another man might build these facts into some sort of fortress on the shore.

John Ralston Saul[1]

Facts do not at all speak for themselves, but require a socially acceptable narrative to absorb, sustain and circulate them.

Edward W. Said[2]

The job of a writer, especially one dealing with matters of historical import, is to make his or her agenda clear to the reader. Michael Roberts[3] and Muttukrishna Sarvananthan[4] do not explicitly deal with the story told by Niromi de Soyza. They are more interested in defending their narrative on the conclusion of the civil war and its aftermath. In doing so, they smother the story de Soyza wants to tell.

The book, as Roberts grudgingly admits, is a captivating read. It is crafted with skill, with each chapter ending on a note of suspense or moment of change in her life world (Roberts, 2011).

Sarvananthan’s rancour gets the better of him and he does not have the grace to even concede that. For him the book is a series of lies, half-truths, evasions and barely concealed plagiarisms. Most of his piece deals with his ‘exposure’ of a sham charity receiving part of the proceeds of the book. (Sarvananthan, 2011)

Before I deal with these contentions, let me elaborate on what I think is the value of the book to the lay reader; rather than to the so-called experts on all things Sri Lankan.

What is not much commented on and written about in histories and narratives about the civil war in Sri Lanka is the huge price paid by civilians, especially women. The choices that non-combatants make inside a war zone are conditioned by that vortex of violence. The book not only provides a feminine perspective on the above, but also throws light on a conservative, caste-bound patriarchal society in the North. It deglamourizes the life of a guerrilla fighter, and in doing so exposes the totalitarian tendencies within the LTTE. To that extent it humanises the minority community and makes its life in wartime more accessible to the majority community.[5]

Niromi de Soyza came to Jaffna as an outsider, the product of a love marriage between an elite member of Jaffna society and a member of an Indian Tamil merchant class much to the disapproval of the former’s family. The Jaffna Tamils claim to, or do, speak the purest form of the Tamil language which they feel sets them apart from other Tamils (de Soyza, 11). Many arranged marriages were alliances to preserve that status quo:

“Jaffna Tamil culture did not tolerate romantic relationships simply because it needed to maintain control on its social hierarchy of caste, education, wealth and religion which was only possible through suitably-arranged marriages.” (de Soyza, 23).

It was also a suffocatingly male culture:

“ … It seemed unfair that men in our society had all the advantages and far less accountability, especially if they were Hindu. In general, they did whatever they pleased; no one expected them to do housework or behave in a certain way that pleased everyone, that they were free to go out any time of the day (curfew permitting), demand respect and dowry from women at marriage even if they were good for nothing.” (de Soyza, 35).

She sheds light on the grinding obsession with study and academic success, which permeated every middle-class household. Enforcing this way of life in the domestic sphere was her Aatchi (maternal grandmother). She and her Amma (mother) had to just endure this (de Soyza, 6-24). Notwithstanding these limitations and travails, life still had joy, gossip, drama, play, friendship and the closeness and love of family. There is much that can be construed as different, but also much we can understand and share. What is missing is the context, the reasons why Jaffna society came to be this way; but this, after all, is a memoir not an academic treatise.

She and her cadres spent most of the time running from the Indian forces with their superior fire power, each encounter resulting in her friends being killed or wounded, and civilians paying for the Indian occupation with the burning of villages and houses. Rather than supporting the LTTE, the people implored them not to fight on their behalf. They knew the price the Indian army would extract (de Soyza, 183-202).

Her naivety about Prabhakaran at the beginning is palpable: ‘He was also passionate about Hinduism; about equality in caste, education and gender; and about building a Tamil nation, where the purest form of the language would be exercised’. (de Soyza, 121) This hero worship made her for a while blind to the flaws of the man and his organisation. But in the end he and the LTTE were exposed as a reactionary brutal dictatorship: ‘From top to bottom in our organisation, everyone did whatever they pleased so long as they could justify it as being for the good of the organisation. I realised that murder and violence against our own was simply part of the culture’. (de Soyza, 280)

Her exposé of the reactionary social mores and critique of the LTTE would make the archetypical well-heeled card-carrying expatriate supporter of the LTTE blanche. He would also choke over his Dhosai (crepes made from lentil and flour) to hear that all he and his ilk had done for Eelam was to get out of the country as fast as they could and fund the mayhem at a safe distance (de Soyza, 93).

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to read Sarvananthan’s piece where he accuses her of indirectly helping the now largely moribund and discredited LTTE, via a charity with the user name sjc87. The acronym refers to the famous Jaffna school, St John’s College. His own research leads him to the conclusion that the charity is a scam; after looking at the promotional video fronted by a white person, he says: It is typical of overseas domiciled LTTE to use host country personnel to advance their cause in whatever form it takes … (Sarvananthan, 2011).

The charity was founded by some of the 1987 batch of classmates and gradually expanded its activities and aims because of the 2004 Tsunami and the end of the civil war in 2009. The charity disputes the claim that de Soyza said that St John’s (a boys’ school) was her alma mater; it insists, rather, that she said she was donating part of the proceeds of her book through her alma mater and the charity it represents.[6]

This of course is rejected by Sarvananthan. In his response, he restates his case and pointedly observes that de Soyza has not responded to his queries. He ends his rejoinder by saying that he welcomes legal action as it will afford him ‘an opportunity to reveal many more evidences in my possession’.[7]  It seems the tired old cliché ‘reds under the bed’ is now being recycled as a LTTE snake in every Tamil based organisation.

Notwithstanding the sensationalist title of Raisa Wickrematunge’s piece in the Sunday Leader, the article itself is much more nuanced. Wickrematunge states that the current principal has heard of the initiative and that it has provided seven scholarships to the school. Of its running he has no knowledge. The local representative of the charity stated it could be possible that Niromi de Soyza was referring to St John’s sister school Chundikuli Girl’s school and that the charity dealt not only with St John’s but a variety of schools in the area. He went on to add that he has not heard of her and has not received any money from her.[8]

Sarvananthan falls prey to very Asian obsession: ‘my qualification is better than yours’. Duelling PhDs?  He questions the PhDs of the committee members and the late Doctor Anton Balasingham, theoretician of the LTTE, whom he calls a ‘quack’.  Of the quality of their academic qualifications I can say nothing. I can comment however, on his rebuke of de Soyza, who ‘might’ have done a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights degree in law, for her admiration of Julian Assange (who in Sarvananthan’s view might be a proprietary rights abuser). Assange is against confidentiality and privacy, he says, so why is she hiding her real identity? How can she support an ‘alleged rapist’ like Assange and at the same time condemn rapes allegedly committed by the Indian forces?

The main cacophony of criticism we get from Wikileaks are from the elites of nation states like America and England whose perfidy, stupidity and other more nefarious activities are now up for public scrutiny via its website. Wikileaks, in fact, has given important information to progressive people across the globe, especially those in the Middle East who are demanding democracy and accountability from their elites. The courts will decide on Assange’s guilt. It would clearly be difficult, and might I add obscene, to equate the allegations of rape laid against Assange, with the violence employed by Indian troops on female civilians. How is it that a researcher like Sarvananthan does not welcome the information that Wikileaks provides?[9]

With regard to plagiarism, there is a thin line between pastiche, memory and paraphrasing. That said, it is up to de Soyza and her publishers to let us know how the biography was vetted, the research involved and the clarification of some of the ‘inaccuracies’ people like Arun Ambalavanar have highlighted.[10] Others have rebutted the inaccuracies in the debate that followed, but I cannot comment on their agendas and the accuracy of their contentions.[11]

Michael Roberts has used his redoubtable command of the English language, his undoubted scholarship and his understanding of modern culture to become the ideological mastiff of the Sri Lankan status quo. His dissection of de Soyza’s memoir is no exception. He cleverly (perhaps maliciously) links the book with two famous counterfeit publications. He praises the writer’s style then attacks the book’s authenticity.

He correctly points out that in the marketing of the book and on its back cover it is erroneously stated that the LTTE was fighting government forces, i.e. the Sri Lankan army. They were engaged in fighting the Indian forces at the time. He fails to mention, however, that the reader of the memoir is left in no doubt that de Soyza and her fellow cadres were fighting and running from the Indian forces.

He puts the memoir into context by giving his summary of the ‘pivotal’ year 1987.  Others might say that 1956 was a pivotal year; but I think we have to go back to the reasons for the 1983 Black July riots and the change from Tamil demands for parity based on parliamentary means to demands based on the gun. Three thousand Tamils were either: burned or raped to death; over 100,000 then moved to the North and Tamil Nadu, into the welcoming arms of the advocates of physical force. The civil war began in earnest in 1984. The Indian government was naturally worried by the number of refugees arriving on their doorstep and it gave them a ‘legitimate’ reason to meddle in the affairs of Sri Lanka. The Indian government either turned a blind eye on the training of guerrillas on their shore or indirectly contributed to it.

They saw the instability in such a strategic area as Lanka as not in their interests and yet had no wish to break Lanka up into competing statelets. Hence the pressure they applied to Jayewardene’s government regarding the signing of the Indo-Lanka agreement. This was done hurriedly and undemocratically, without the consent of powerful members of Jayewardene’s cabinet, the populations of the south and north, the JVP or the LTTE. This resulted in citizens of the South being caught between the security forces and the JVP and the inhabitants of the North and East between the Indian forces and the LTTE. Premadasa (who replaced Jayewardene as President) made a pact with the LTTE and armed them to fight the Indian forces. This left him free to embark on the near annihilation of the JVP and their supporters; then the civil war commenced again, but only after the LTTE defeated or wore out the Indian army. The populations in the North and the South were left battered and scarred.[12]  Niromi de Soyza’s memoir deals with only a sliver of that Homeric tragedy, the entry of the Indian armed forces in the North.

Roberts is right to assert that certain political tactics, like Thileepan starving to death for Eelam and the seventeen fighters taking cyanide capsules, rallied the people behind the LTTE. What he fails to mention is the incompetence of the Indian forces, their increasing barbarity and the fact that the LTTE had eliminated, or was busily eliminating, other Tamil political formations. This left the civilian population free to choose only the devil they knew. Lest we forget, the dance of Lord Siva is marked by ambiguities, paradox and horror.

But that is only the prelude to what Roberts sees as the central issue; nor will he tolerate narratives counter to the official one. De Soyza’s memoir, like Gordon Weiss’s description of the last stages of the civil war[13] and the Channel 4 documentary on the atrocities committed by both sides, have raised his ire because of the damage they do to the victors’ narrative.  Gordon Weiss is a missionary crusader, one of the irritating tribe Roberts calls people of righteousness.

I see them marching forth to cleanse the world of “evil” in the form of carbon pollution, smoke inhalation, et cetera. Human rights extremism is one product of this era of secular fundamentalism.[14]

Both Niromi de Soyza’s and Gordon Weiss’s books humanise the plight of boat people fleeing Sri Lanka: Roberts sees them as economic refugees. His brief visit to the North after the end of the civil war gave him a view of the welfare work done by NGOs like SEEDS, Caritas and Tamils of goodwill like Rajasingham Narendran. He quotes a note he received from Jeremy Liyanage, who had run a number of focus groups in Mannar in the North. These showed that people were conflict saturated, do not want the diaspora to speak on their behalf and have no desire for Eelam. Tellingly they want to live in a united Sri Lanka with equality of opportunity. Roberts is scornful of those who think that Sri Lanka is a dangerous place for ‘anyone who criticises the government’. He thinks such criticism is malicious slander and exaggeration. (Roberts, 2011)

His argument, for all his eloquence, is in the end just as one-sided as the ones he thinks he has demolished. Reality is much more complex than Roberts supposes. Sri Lanka has emerged from a thirty year civil war with an authoritarian democracy with social inequality at its core. The security forces of the state were just as ruthless as their vanquished opponents. Most worryingly there are no concrete offers on the table to deal with the Tamils’ legitimate concerns.

In this scenario, dissent, opposition political formations, a free press, a vibrant trade union movement and human rights (pillars of a democratic state) are seen as dangerous manifestations. Perhaps Roberts feels no unease being one of the more prominent intellectual cheer leaders of the status quo. But if you are an investigative journalist, for example, you might be ‘made to disappear’. Lasantha Wickrematunga was the well-known editor of the Sunday Leader and a critic of the current administration: he was murdered in 2009, the best known example of a long line of journalists who have been murdered, made to disappear or detained for what they have written. In 2009 Reporters sans Frontiers rated Sri Lanka as 162 out of 175 countries in terms of the safety of the press.

If you run against the current president then you are court-martialled and jailed for your temerity, like Former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. If you are a trade union member, official or activist and are demanding a just wage, expect to be intimidated and or jailed.[15] There are still 80,000 troops stationed in the North. Extra-judicial killings, abductions and ‘burglaries’ are still too common, despite the presence of tens of thousands of troops.[16] All these show that the state of democracy and the right of dissent are in a perilous state. Perhaps, in retrospect, de Soyza’s non de plume was judicious.

Whether the Tamil Tigress is a ‘fake’; that the accent of the book is not Jaffna-centric enough; that some of the facts are inaccurate; that it is a book cobbled together from books of similar ilk, I cannot comment on. That is up to Ms de Soyza and her publishers to comment on. I can only reiterate that Niromi de Soyza tells an important story, from a much needed feminine viewpoint, in a very patriarchal society.


[1] Saul, J. R. (1992). Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West. Vintage Books, 52-53.

[2] Said, E. W. (1995). The Politics of Dispossession. Vintage Books, 254.

[3]Roberts, M. (2011). Forbidden Fruits: Niromi de Soyza’s Tamil Tigress. Norma Kouri and Helen Demidenko.  Groundviews at: http://groundviews.org/2011/08/31/forbidden-fruits-niromi-de-soyzas-tamil-tigress-noumi-kouri-and-helen-demidenko/.

[4] Sarvananthan, M. (2011). Outing a Counterfeit Guerrilla: A tale of lies by Tamil Tigress Niromi de Soyza. Groundviews at: http://groundviews.org/2011/11/19/outing-a-counterfeit-guerrilla-a-tale-of-lies-by-tamil-tigress-niromi-de-soyza/.

[5] De Soyza, N. (2011). Tamil Tigress. Allen and Unwin.

[6] Sarvananthan, M. (2011). Separating Fact from Fantasy on the ‘Research Note’. by the principal available on their website: www.sjc87scholarship.org/Welcome…/SJC_87_Rebuttal_letter.pdf.

[7]Sarvanthan, M. (2011). Reply to the rebuttal of my article by the sjc87 initiative. Groundviews at: http://groundviews.org/2011/11/29/reply-to-the-rebuttal-of-my-article-by-the-sjc87-initiative/.

[8] Wickrematunge, R. (2011). Fake Charity from ‘Tigress’ Author. www.thesundayleader.lk/category/investigation/expose

[9] See Ratnayake, K. (2010). Wiki leaks document exposes US complicity in Sri Lankan war Crimes. Published on 4 December 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/dec2010/sril-d04.shtml

[10] Ambalavanar, Arun (2011). ‘The farce of a fake Tigress.’  The Sunday  Leader: www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/08/21/book-review-20

[11] See  Shaun Kumar, August 25 2011, and Kumar68, August 2011, for responses posted  to the above article.

[12] Cooke, M. C. (2011). Rebellion, Repression and The Struggle for Justice in Sri Lanka. Agahas Publishers, 235-294 and 357-370.

[13] Weiss, G. (2011) The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers. Bodley Head.

[14] Roberts, M. (2011). People of righteousness ‘pursue campaign against Sri Lanka with missionary zeal. TransCurrents at: http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/1522.

[15] Lanka News Web (2010). Restriction of right to strike and violations of the principles of ILO Conventions – No. 87 and 98 – Sri Lanka. Published on 30 November 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.lankanewsweb.com/news/EN_2010_11_30_009.html

[16] Journalists of Democracy in Sri Lanka (2011). Extra judicial killings, abductions, burglaries haunt Sri Lanka’s North. Published on 7 January 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.jdslanka.org/2011/01/extra-judicial-killings-abductions.html

  • Shaun

    Here are the facts about Niromi…

    http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/3160

    Now we all know truth prevails…..

    Well done Niromi. you are so different from these jealous people .

    You set an example for others to follow by helping the war affected children through education.

    keep up the good work Niromi.

  • A Jeevan – Melbourne

    Finally, the truth prevailed and Tamil Tigress book’s and Niromi’s authenticity are vindicated by independent sources now.

    DBS’s Jeyaraj’s account and analysis is much more objective and convincing than the previous dubious articles written by Arun Ambalavanar, Michael Roberts and Muthukrishna Sarvananthan on Niromi de Soyza.

    I am sure Niromi will forgive her detractors even though they tried to mudsling her before. Well done Niromi!

  • wijayapala

    While Mr Cooke’s critique of Sarvananthan and Roberts may be somewhat justified, he “cookes” his own goose by resorting to his own sweeping generalizations and getting carried away with hyperbole.

    The security forces of the state were just as ruthless as their vanquished opponents.

    The same security forces that are rehabilitating these vanquished opponents, many of whom are children??

    Rehabilitation of Former Child Soldiers In Sri Lankan Style Part 1 of 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moC4MN7g63I

    If you run against the current president then you are court-martialled and jailed for your temerity, like Former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka.

    Here is a list of other people who also had the temerity to run against the current president. Hopefully Mr Cooke will share with us how many of them have been imprisioned:

    Siritunga Jayasuriya United Socialist Party
    M.B. Thaminimulla Okkoma Vesiyo – Okkoma Rajavaru Sanvidhanaya
    Sarath Manamendra Nawa Sihala Urumaya
    Achala Ashoka Suraweera Jathika Sangwardhena Peramuna
    P.D.P.S. Anura Liyanage Sri Lanka Labour Party
    Vikramabahu Karunaratne Left Front
    Wije Dias Socialist Equality Party
    Sarath Kongahage United National Alternative Front
    K.G.R.L. Perera Our National Front
    M. K. Shivajilingam Independent
    W.M.U.B. Wijekoon Independent
    M.C.M. Ismail Democratic United National Front
    Oswald Aruna de Soysa Ruhunu Janatha Party
    Sanath Pinnaduwa National Alliance
    Adurage Senaratne Silva Patriotic National Front
    C.J. Sugathsiri Gamage United Democratic Front
    W.V. Mahiman Ranjith Independent

    In this scenario, dissent, opposition political formations, a free press, a vibrant trade union movement and human rights (pillars of a democratic state) are seen as dangerous manifestations.

    How can the current “opposition political formations” (i.e. Ranil’s UNP, Somawansa’s JVP) be seen as dangerous manifestations, given their time-tested inability to win elections?

    • myil selvan

      Dear Wijeyapala,

      “While Mr Cooke’s critique of Sarvananthan and Roberts may be somewhat justified, he “cookes” his own goose by resorting to his own sweeping generalizations and getting carried away with hyperbole.

      “The security forces of the state were just as ruthless as their vanquished opponents.””

      My take:
      I would say the security forces were in some cases worse than the LTTE. For example:
      raping and shoving a grenade into a woman’s virgina and blowing her up
      Bombing of hospitals and schools in the North
      Gang rapes and killing, etc

      These barbaric acts you will not find in Daily Mirror, Island, Nation, Sunday Times, et al.

      You say:
      The same security forces that are rehabilitating these vanquished opponents, many of whom are children??

      My take:
      Well what is happening in the rehabilitation camps is not well known. There isn’t much rehabilitation taking place. The detainees are being questioned as to where hidden caches of weapons are and if they know of any other members of the LTTE who may have slipped through.
      Besides some of these detainees were forced to join and may have been only with the LTTE for a few hours or a few days.

      You say ‘many of whom are children’- How many children? Besides they are children. You should be ashamed to bring that up as a virtue.

      You say:
      “Here is a list of other people who also had the temerity to run against the current president. Hopefully Mr Cooke will share with us how many of them have been imprisioned:”

      My take:
      And how many of these ‘also ran’s’ were a serious threat to Mahinda? None. Only Sarath Fonseka was a genuine threat to Mahinda as the common opposition candidate. Hence he was targeted.

      You say:
      “How can the current “opposition political formations” (i.e. Ranil’s UNP, Somawansa’s JVP) be seen as dangerous manifestations, given their time-tested inability to win elections?”

      My Take:
      Ranil lost the presidential elections of 2005 because the LTTE forced the Thamil people to boycott the elections. Otherwise Ranil would have won.
      Mahinda knows that the only thing going for him right now is the fact that he won the war. On all other counts he doesn’t have anything much. Hence he would always be worried about whoever his opposition is, whether weak or strong.
      Why is Mahinda trying to stop and subvert the TNA? TNA meeting was attacked by the Army, why? Because they are paranoid and live in fear, hence the North is militarized so that they can hold on to it. And also give employment to the soldiers.

    • myil selvan

      Good to see another perspective on this ‘Thamil Tigress’ saga. DBS Jeyaraj says that this is a real person and that he knows her real name. Although he does accept that there are inaccurate information in the book.

      I’ve always wondered what Muttukrishna Sarvananthan’s agenda is?

      He once wrote a reply to MIA (the artiste) in the daily mirror referring to her suggestion that there are more than 400,000 people in the Vanni. Sarvananthan said “there aren’t that many only 150,000″.

      In the end we know there were almost double the amount who came out alive.

      So what is Dr. Sarvananthan’s line?

      • Nithyananthan

        Having read so many articles and barrage of comments in different channels on this issue by different personalities, may I say that in view of the fact that I come from Tellippalai, a place (VC) which is much closer to Veemankamam, I have reasons to find DBSJ’s investigative verification is more credible.

        Therefore, Dear Mr. Selvan, don’t push Mr. Sarvi so hard against the wall. After all he is a ‘Doc’ [Edited out.] laying golden egg, an indispensable asset to his patrons and doing his job, as many others, what’s expected out of them to perform. He does neither live up to the tail of titles displayed following his name nor assert his credibility while demeaning other Docs [Edited out.] Let’s leave him alone. I feel so sorry for his motive that drives him wrongly in a wrong lane. Thanks, Nithy!

  • Arun

    Great analysis, much better than previous articles appeared on Niromi de Soyza’s Tamil Tigress Book.

    After reading this on GV and DBS’s Jeyaraj account, I now realise how much mud-slinging was attempted by Michael Roberts, Arun Ambalavanar and Mutthukrishna Sarvananthan.

    At the end Truth prevails and good work Niromi.

    Now I know what book to get as my Christmas gifts to friends and family!

    • Rohan

      Shame on Arun Ambalavanar, Michael Robert and Muttukrishna Sarvananthan. I run along,whether the Tamil Tigress is a fake, I cannot comment on. But, before accusing someone’s credibility, one should be very careful. So called academic Michael Robert has been exposed well by Michael Colin Cooke. Self-characterised consultant economist Muttu Sarvananthan (how he became a terrorism expert beats me) said in his rebuttal that he would put more proof on the table about SJC87. It seems, SJC87 does not want to claim damages from him as they do not want to waste their energy on an weak link. Like DBSJ and MCC said in their articles, Niromi has an important story to tell, and those who claim to have something against her should come out with real facts, not fabrications and insunuations.

  • anbu

    wel said.
    please read http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/3160

    for more infomration on Niromi

  • hodge-podge

    MCC said:
    “The book, as Roberts grudgingly admits, is a captivating read. It is crafted with skill, with each chapter ending on a note of suspense or moment of change in her life world”

    Well then I could say:
    The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ was a captive read. . It is crafted with skill, with each chapter ending on a note of suspense or moment of change in his life world.….. I read it in one go, many moons ago.

    That doesn’t make it a true story. We all know it’s not about Sue Townsend’s childhood!

    Looking forward to Prof Robert’s reply to MCC.

  • Anantham

    Read the following by Meena Nallainathan on DBSJ in Ryerson Review of Journalism (Canada), Spring 2007

    http://rrj.ca/m4074/

    In 2000, he tells me, Anton Balasingham, right-hand man of Tiger leader Prabhakaran, called Jeyaraj from London. He told Jeyaraj that he had come to accept some of his criticisms. Now, said Balasingham, he wanted Jeyaraj’s help in steering the Tiger organization away from the hardliners. Jeyaraj agreed to assist, and began writing articles demanding the Sri Lankan government negotiate with the Tigers.

    “As a human being,” Jeyaraj explains as we sit at an isolated table in the food court, “I felt flattered that, after all these attacks on me, they were now coming to me for some kind of help.” Balasingham was convincing, he says, sympathetic to the recent deaths of Jeyaraj’s parents, but also emotionally manipulative. According to Jeyaraj, Balasingham said, “Our people need peace in a settlement. Help me to fight the demons within the movement, and I will slowly persuade Mr. Prabhakaran.” For the first time, the Tamil Guardian, a Tiger paper published in the U.K., reproduced Jeyaraj’s articles critical of the government. But by 2002 Balasingham no longer accepted phone calls from him and Jeyaraj finally realized he had been seduced and co-opted. “I’ve now lost all faith in the LTTE,” he tells me. “The brief period that I thought the LTTE was capable of transforming and coming into the peace process is gone. The justice of the Tamil cause is being diluted, undermined and distorted because of LTTE methods.”

    Our conversation over, we leave the mall together. I had no way of knowing it would be our last meeting. Since then he has been elusive, at first responding to my emails and calls, agreeing to interviews, then cancelling. Then nothing.

    When I think back on our conversations, I remain puzzled by his murkiness. He seems to make a distinction between the Tigers and their methods. It is as though he sees the Tigers as a delinquent band of brothers-in-arms who have the right idea — Tamil nationalism — but the wrong plan of attack. In December 2006 the man who told me he had “lost all faith in the LTTE” wrote articles that betrayed a tacit respect and admiration for the Tigers’s military prowess. And when Balasingham died the same month, he wrote articles glorifying the man’s intellect and life’s work, even though he was a diplomatic face who provided theoretical justification for murder. I have no sympathies with the Tigers, a view that came across in the questions I asked Jeyaraj at the mall. After returning home, he must have decided he wanted no more part of an article written by someone who wasn’t as torn as he was.

    • wijayapala

      Anantham, what was the point of that citation of DBSJ?

  • Shaun

    Cooke , you clearly pointed out in the first paragraph that Roberts and Muthukrishna Sarvananthan did not touch the master piece . which is a book 9Tamil Tigress) written by Niromi de Soyza . Most of the people got alerted by the title of the book rather read the actual content ( master piece). I am one of the readers who went through the book page by page and related to the contemporary time of Niromi de Soyza. Author’s pen name did not prevent me to read the book. The book is not promoting violent methods, it is about the life story , realisation, and her living example of helping the war affected children. i am sure she chose that path by recalling her childhood, school life experienced such a trauma of the war, Education is the best way to build the lives of the children.

    I was having a wrong view initially about the book written by Niromi De Soyza. It was purely by reading the critics of the people ( Michael Robert, Arul Ambalavanar ) whom you mention in your article.

    After understand the background of critics, I am fully convinced why they wrote. It is really puzzle me for Mr.Sarvananthan Muttukrishna who has a background in economics, who is currently in Melbourne doing some so called research in ” Terrorism ” and enjoying the time with Robert .

    Obviously he must submit a thesis to please the fund provider. and he wrongly chose the respectable organisation sjc87initiative.org run by highly qualified volunteers who committed their time and comfort for humanitarian ( non political ) initiatives for the war affected children in Sri Lanka. Sarvananthan would have realised by now.

    Michael Robert , an elderly man who is a migrant from Sri Lanka , enjoys the Australian government pension writing article in his free time as a pensioner criticised the Memoir ( life story ) of a girl!

    Michael Robert would have been written books and none of the books were selected by the Australian leading publishers. I can understand his frustration. the Only way to get popularity is to ride on Niromi’s popularity. Interestingly , Michael Robert never lived in jaffna .

    In Cooke’s article wrongly give a title ” Muthukrishna Sarvananthan’s research “. It was not a research .It was a google search and Sarvananthan did not even read the content of the search result properly. he mention about the website http://www.sjc87initiative.org . It showed the quality of the research of Muthukrishna Sarvananthan is doing.

    Muthukrishna Sarvananthan come to conclusion of Niromi’s silence. here the example; if a person called me that I am a donkey and I did not want to prove I am not a donkey…. after sometime the person who called me donkey can confirmed that I am a donkey. Brilliant conclusion! . I would be interested to know the conclusions of Muthukrishna Sarvananthan’s past researches.

    Claimed about the school the Author Niromi attended
    —————————————————
    We need understand clearly that Author Niromi never claimed that she studied at St.John’s college, Jaffna in first place. It is the claimed initiated by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan . Mr. Sarvananthan could be having some hearing problem or could be some problem in understanding or even mental issues. We do not know. I heard from one of my friend’s wife who attended the same event confirmed that Author Niromi never mention that she studied at St.John’s college, Jaffna. after reading the book Tamil tigress, I am more convinced that such a great author will not make such a silly claimed.

    After reading the article from DBS Jeyarajah http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/3160 it is clear why Niromi de Soyza mention about the alma mater.

    The rebuttal letter from the sjc87initiative.org also confirmed the truth. letter showed who runs the respective charitable association. well done boys of sjc87 initiative.

    http://sjc87scholarship.org/Welcome_files/SJC_87_Rebuttal_letter.pdf

    Mislead information given to Sunday leader by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan
    ———————————————————————–

    Cooke mention about Sunday Leader reporter Raisa Wickramasinghe spoke to the principal of St.John’s College ans the principal said sjc87initiative only sponsor 7 students. We must understand what was the question asked by the reporter. The following questions were asked by the reporter

    1.) Did Niromi de Soyza study in St.John’s College?
    Answer obviously ” NO” . since Niromi never mention she studied at St.John’s College.

    2.) Did Niromi sponsor any children in St.John’s College ?

    Answer obviously ” No” since she never claimed she gave the money to St.John’s college .

    then Raisa Wickramasinghe published in red bold letter Fake charity. fake claimed . It was a great shock to see the ignorant journalist who letting down the reputable leading newspaper. She made a mistake by publishing the article on the 20th of Nov , to avoid the legal measure she rushed to get the answer ( selective hearing) from the principal . What a standard of Journalism in Sri Lanka.

    Here the letter from principal of St.John’s college, Jaffna dated on the 8th December http://www.sjc87scholarship.org/letters/sjc.html showing clearly what Raisa said was not giving a true picture about the initiative. Raisa published the article without checking the content from the website http://www.sjc87initiative.org .

    We can understand clearly sjc87initiative is helping the needy children across the 14 schools including St.John’s college. They invested by understanding the educational needs and invested millions of rupees from their hard earning money!

    I was really amazed by the activities by sjc87initiative http://sjc87scholarship.org/activities.html

    I am very glad that ground views published article for readers to judge and a beautiful article written DBS Jeyarajah. It is really sad to see a very handful journalist are remain to bring the true stories.

  • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

    This is an easy matter to solve. Niromi explicitly stated that this is her autobiography and not ‘faction’. ‘My story’, ‘true story’ etc. If she’d categorised it as fiction or faction, there wouldn’t be such a fuss made of the whole thing. Either it’s an autobiography or it’s not; there’s no middle ground. Which is it? Roberts et al are perfectly entitled to ask that question of her.

    And her claim to anonymity is patently ridiculous given her many TV and book show appearances, showing her face. We all know what she look like – that’s hardly ‘anonymous’, is it? What was she afraid of? Kudos to DBS (as usual) for giving good info on her background etc.

    In the intro to her on-line interview produced by her publishers Allen & Unwin, it says: “Terrible things happen in a civil war especially during a systematic campaign by an elected government to wipe out parts of its own population….”

    Is this what Niromi & her publishers Allen & Unwin believe? I think we should be told. Perhaps Niromi could attend the next Galle Literary Festival and lay all these rumours to rest.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FikCt-dimkE

    Oh dear….. we’re back to “genocide”, all over again.. this is like Sri Lanka’s version of Godwin’s Law. Eventually everything about Sri Lanka ends up at ‘genocide’.

    The autobiographies I’m really looking forward to reading are of KP and Karuna. Now, these guys will have an interesting history to tell.

    • Eashwaran Sinnaiah

      Karu na and KP are in the hands of Mahinda. Do you expect just a story or an honest piece from them?

      • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

        KP has already given a riveting account of the last days of the LTTE, (via DBS Jeyaraj’s interview) obviously with Gota’s assent. And no one (to my knowledge) has seriously contradicted his account — unlike Niromi’s ‘faction’.
        No doubt, he’ll want to give a fuller account of his amazing life and times in due course. Perhaps in a few years time?

  • Anantham

    DBSJ is doing a BELL POTTINGER job on Niromi de Soyza. That is why he is censoring critical comments to his article on his own blog and therefore I have to post my comments in the Groundviews.

    • Rankarajan

      Ananathan U have found the real credibility of DBS.Jeyarajah. He has a history of blindly defending his friends at the expense of his integrity. A well example is the serial he wrote on Taraki Sivaram. Every PLOTE insider know that It was Taraki Sivaram who personally murdered two of his PLOTE dissenters Ahilan and Selvam. This murder was documented by University teachers for human Rights ( Jaffna) too. ( See the link http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport19ptII.htm#Who) DBSJ Jeyaraj blindly asserted that Taraki was exonerated of the murders. Now DBSJ is out again defending Niromy. Can DBSJ rule out that Niromi is not his relative or not his friends of friends? Can DBSJ rule out he was not influenced by those who lobbied for niromi?
      Rankarajan

    • Ken

      Anandatham,

      Moderation is imperative to any news portal. I know how many hate, racist comments emails . It might hijeck the core subject. If DBS does not publish a comment does not mean he blocked everything. It is upto the reader to decide. I would do the same . It has a great responsibility to keep the readers alive and should not waste the readers valuable time.

  • Shaz

    Fair review on Tamil Tigress memoir (not autobiography as some are confusing without knowing the difference)! The final point is answered by http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/3160. So now we can all go back to living our lives…

    • S.B.D

      Just when you thought it was safe to go back to ….

      D.B.S.JEYARAJ finds some fatal slips in Niromi De Soyza’s narrative And quietly ignores them hoping they will just go away…..

      http://tinyurl.com/cz7tr9a

      • Ken

        As a reader of entire book, I realised why the Australian Ministry for the Arts and the Australian Arts council have selected it for their 2011 “Get Reading! Campaign” as one of the 50 Books “You Can’t Put Down”!

        http://vimeo.com/28458475

        If you read the entire book then readers will realise what the author wanted to bring…

  • Rankarajan

    Why DBS Jeyaraj hasn’t continued his second aprt yet.
    Has he realised that he was taken for a ride by niromi lobbyist?
    DBSJ we are still waiting?